GUYANA-SUGAR-Private sector group urges government to hold strain on closure of sugar estates

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana, May 30, CMC – The Private Sector Commission (PSC) Tuesday called on the Guyana government to hold back on its plans to scale down operations at the state-owned sugar company, GUYSUCO.
“The private sector calls on Government to hold its hand on the current approach towards closure of estates. The private sector stands ready to place its considerable experience at the disposal of and to work with Government to explore all possible options to avert closure”, the PSC said in a statement.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo urged sugar workers to protest the government’s move to shut down some sugar factories warning that at least 10,000 workers would be put on the breadline.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is also urging sugar workers to stand united, as they continue to hold several protest actions in an effort to reverse government’s new decision to close more sugar estates.
The PSC said while it recognises that GUYSUCO has reported financial losses and has become dependent on subventions from the government, the David Granger administration should also take into account the impact the scaling down of operations could have on the country.
It said that a review of GUYSUCO’s audited financial statements for 2015 showed that more than GUY$10 billion (One Guyana dollar =US$0.004 cents) would be removed from private employment income should Government proceed with the closure of estates.
“This, in turn, would have a direct negative effect on consumer spending in the communities which, directly or indirectly, depend upon income, from sugar. Such a decline in consumer spending would also have a diminishing impact upon all commerce with concomitant negative spin-off effects on the economy as a whole”, the PSC said.
The PSC said it is also concerned of the impact the closure of the estates would have on the foreign exchange sector since GUYSUCO is a major earner of foreign exchange and closure of any estates would severely impact the availability of foreign exchange and increase the price at which it is sold.
The PSC said that many factors have contributed to the declining performance of the industry, including the loss of the preferential pricing of the lucrative European Union market even as it said “there is the view that these could be addressed to turn around the industry”.
GUYSUCO has warned that it could also close down the Uitvlugt Estate saying that workers from one sugar estate –Wales -are refusing to work at the West Coast Demerara facility.
Government had merged the operations of the two West Demerara estates after closing the Wales Estate last year. It said then that the Uitvlugt Estate is being upgraded to increase its production from 20,000 to 40,000 tonnes of sugar annually.
But Jagdeo told a news conference last week that the sugar workers should remain vigiliant.

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