The entire week of rainfall at the beginning of November is being blamed for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) potentially missing its production target of 90,000 tonnes sugar.
Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Sasenarine Singh, on Monday stated that the unprecedent rainfall is to be blamed for the potential miss in the production target, and added that GuySuCo intends to work around the clock to recover from that loss.
“Even if the weather going forward is good, it would be difficult for GuySuCo to surpass 90,000 tonnes in 2020. That was a real possibility at the end of September 2020, and after the November rains, it blew away that opportunity and we have at best three weeks left. So far, we have about 80,670 tonnes of sugar produced, and we are pushing to have (90,000) by the end of the three weeks (remaining for the crop),” Singh said.
He explained that the sugar workers are working beyond the call of duty to ensure that as much sugar is produced as is possible.
Singh related that due to the rains, the Corporation lost the opportunity to produce almost $354 million in sugar across the three functional estates – Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, and Rose Hall and Blairmont in Berbice.
“This is a serious situation, because that is $354 million that we could have been using to invest in the sugar industry and pursue the 2021 plan. So, this situation is heart-rending since it affected the approximately 8,800 sugar workers, but we have accepted it and we are planning for 2021, to ensure that we do not lose the available opportunity days,” he said.
He noted that one of the biggest challenges that GuySuCo has been facing for the past five years is that its opportunity days in tillage have now moved from about 120 days per year to about 70 days a year. That means that the Corporation needs to work extra hard and around the clock on those days in an effort to achieve its tillage programme and increase yield.
In an effort to ensure that maximum use is made of the favourable days, the Corporation needs to ensure it has the right equipment for the job, according to the CEO.
“If GuySuCo does not have the right equipment in the field at the start of the first crop in February 2021, then this entire 2021 plan to produce 97,000 tonnes of sugar in 2021 is in clear and present danger. If we do not have the right tilling machines in February, then the reopening of the Rose Hall Estate and the Enmore Estate in 2022 is also in clear and present danger,” he warned.
Back in 2016, the former APNU/AFC closed the Wales Estate, and, the following year, shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon estates, putting over 7,000 sugar workers on the breadline. The downsizing of the sugar industry saw only the Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion estates being in operation. The assets of the closed estates were put under the control of the Special Purpose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) for divestment.
The Corporation is eyeing the reopening of Enmore and Rose Hall estates by 2022. It is expected that the Rose Hall factory would be the first to become operational, while the Skeldon factory would be returned to operation by 2023. The Wales Factory would be divested.
Meanwhile, the CEO has said the vision is to take the sugar industry up the value chain by placing more emphasis on value-added products, which means more revenue.
“We (are) not talking about fish farming or milk production, we are talking about diversification along sugar-related products: things that have a base in cane; speaking to things like ethanol production, industrial grade white sugar, glucose production, liquid sugars, distillery, packaged sugar and agro heritage tourism. When you visit some of these estates, you fall in love with how they are beautifully crafted, and there are opportunities there for families of Guyana to spend some time understanding what it is all about.
“The short-term focus remains moving away from bulk sugar that we dump on the world market to putting more sugar in bags and packages. We (are) talking about lots of packages,” he explained.
He noted that the process of moving up the value chain has already commenced with the restarting of the Enmore Packaging Facility. Singh informed that there are currently two production lines working, and the parts for the third one would be in the country by early next year. He added that, by mid-2021, the Enmore Packaging Facility would be operating at maximum capacity, with all 4 production lines in operation.
Singh had told this publication in September that the revenue stream has to go up, and the only way that can happen is by moving to higher -value sugar-related products.
“Packaging sugar! We have to go more into packaging sugar, because we get a greater value. We can get packaging sugar as high as US$700 a ton, and we sell sugar on the bulk sugar market and we get almost US$300 less than that.
“We are moving everything up the value chain: bagged sugar, packaged sugar, a refinery is a big focus,” Singh had said.