Rose Hall Sugar Estate expected to be reopened later this year – Min Mustapha

– touts progress in agriculture sector, Guyana’s growing regional influence

On day two of the budget debates, much was said by the parliamentary Opposition about the sugar industry; and in response, Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, on Wednesday updated the house on the developments in the sugar industry.
During his budget debate presentation, Mustapha pointed out that after their five years in office, A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) left the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) in a state of disaster.
Several estates were closed, with the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) having to reopen estates. One such estate, the Rose Hall Sugar Estate, is now on track to be reopened later this year.
“I want to inform the APNU/AFC that, later on, the second crop of this year, Rose Hall, one of the estates they closed to suffer that area, will be reopened, and smoke will be coming out of that chimney,” Mustapha said.
“That’s the problem. (Opposition Member of Parliament Khemraj) Ramjattan says they wanted to right-size the sugar industry. The Guyanese people have right-sized this country, and put them over there (in opposition) for the rest of their lives. And Mr. Ramjattan will be there for the rest of his political career!
“Today, the sugar industry is in the midst of a turnaround. Of the 7000 persons who were fired under the former APNU/AFC Government, approximately 1500 of those workers were re-employed.
“In 2014, when we left Government, the industry was producing 216,352 metric tonnes. It moved to 92,256 metric tonnes in 2019. In 2015, Skeldon Estate produced 39,157 metric tonnes. In 2016, Skeldon Estate produced 31,782 metric tonnes. They went to Parliament, boasting that they turned around the industry and sugar will prosper.
“In 2017, production fell to 14,000 tonnes. And that was the end of Skeldon Estate. In 2016, APNU/AFC abandoned four sugar estates and put 7000 sugar workers on the breadline. The same time they took their salary increase, they dismissed 7000 sugar workers,” Mustapha reminded the National Assembly.
And at a time when many countries in the world suffered from food shortages and another globally-influenced economic woes, Minister Mustapha also revealed, Guyana is still able to produce the majority of the food it consumes. With Guyana able to produce 60 per cent of food for domestic consumption, Minister Mustapha expressed optimism about the agriculture sector.
“We have seen what took place during the last two and a half years during the pandemic. We have seen many countries that have large sums of money were unable to procure food for their population,” Mustapha said.
“And we in Guyana are very fortunate because, with the prudent management and investments we have created, we are able to produce 60 per cent of the food we are consuming. I am hearing my colleagues saying 100 per cent, we will reach there… I have a plan, unlike them, for the agriculture sector.”
Mustapha pointed out that the non-oil economy performed well and registered 11.5 per cent Gross Domestic Production (GDP), of which agriculture accounted for almost 9 per cent. He also spoke about Guyana’s influence at the regional level when it comes to food security, and how it has grown in the past few years.
“The entire Caribbean is looking forward to the leadership of His Excellency President Mohamed Irfaan Ali. And with that portfolio that our President holds, we have seen a renewed interest in agriculture in the region. Countries that depend on tourism are now moving to transform their economies into agriculture because they see the future,” Mustapha said.
After taking office in 2020, the PPP/C Government had also announced, in the Emergency Budget presented in September 2020, that some $5 billion would be injected into the sugar industry for the phased reopening of the closed estates.
GUYSUCO was allocated a further $2 billion in Budget 2021 by the PPP/C Government for capital works to be undertaken at the various estates to help in the turnaround of the sugar industry. Last year, GUYSUCO received $1 billion in supplementary funding from the Government.
And in budget 2023, $4 billion was allocated. According to Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh in his budget speech, the Government remains committed to the revitalisation and restructuring of the sugar industry to support a diversified and modernised sector, ensuring its sustainability and economic viability.