“No more funds” for sugar industry – EU

– wraps up grant programme with Guyana

By Vahnu Manikchand

After finally releasing the last instalment of its sugar grant last year, the European Union (EU) has now closed the programme, which saw Guyana benefiting from some $348.5 billion budgetary support to aid in sugar sector reform.
This is according to the EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videti?, during a press conference on Thursday. The Ambassador noted that while the last grant was issued in 2013, it was not released to Guyana until last year after the country failed to meet the necessary indicators/criteria required.

EU Ambassador Jernej Videti? (sitting) with other representatives from the local Mission including Head of Cooperation Christof Stock (first from left) at Thursday’s news conference

“The last payment under the sugar programme was delayed; it was put on hold because we were waiting for the eligibility criteria to be met. So this payment was executed in October 2016,” Videti? told reporters.
However, he added that the disbursement of this last instalment brings the curtains down on the sugar grant which will officially end on September 30. “There’re no more funds in there from this protocol… This is it,” the EU Head of Mission asserted.
The EU Sugar Grant was established to compensate for the 36 per cent cut in preferential market price after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had ruled that the preferential market access violated global free trade rules.
A total of 1.28 billion euros were allocated for disbursement to the sugar protocol countries benefiting from the programme to help them adapt to the new market conditions. Guyana received its first instalment in 2006.
According to Ambassador Videti?, the EU grant was to support the restructuring of the sugar sector and not for a policy design. The latter, he noted, is the sole competence and responsibility of Government.
In fact, Head of Cooperation at the EU Mission in Guyana, Christof Stock, pointed out that while the monies were to support reform within the sugar sector, the EU had no actual involvement in that process.
“…When we are doing budget support programme, which is to increase the ownership of the country of the programme, the money goes into the Treasury and the only influence we have is to check against the indicators – how the indicators are reached and that’s out of our responsibility. But this is a system which basically follows the Millennium Goals agreed and in order also to give those countries benefiting from budget support, the possibility to increase their ownership and to integrate the funds into their respective policy,” he explained.
On Wednesday, a local online news entity reported Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Errol Hanoman, had said that the company is seeking the EU’s assistance to conduct a technical study on the feasibility of producing plantation white sugar here.
However, when questioned about this at Thursday’s press conference, the EU Ambassador indicated to media operatives that he is unaware of this.
“I’m not aware of this (or) that we would be involved in anything like that,” Ambassador Videti? said.
Nevertheless, Stock explained that projects in the field of technical assistance to governments are done on a request basis. To this end, he noted that such collaboration can be possible.
“Yes it is possible under request from Government; however, we haven’t received such a request so that’s not an issue now for us,” Stock stated.
The Guyana Government has moved to downsize and diversify the heavily indebted and cash strapped sugar industry. A move, which has since attracted countrywide protest action with many, including the parliamentary Opposition and the largest sugar representation body GAWU (Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union), calling on the coalition Administration to reverse its decision.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder recently presented a ‘White Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry’ to the National Assembly, revealing plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.