APNU most irresponsible – President- as he reacts to opposition’s call for closing down sugar industry

Georgetown, GINA, March 12, 2014

 

President Donald Ramotar has labelled A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) call for the shutting down of the sugar industry as most reckless, and a careless disregard for the thousands of people who depend on it for their livelihood.

“They are thinking about putting some 17,000 to 20,000 people directly out of employment, and they will be affecting, also indirectly thousands of other people who depend on the sugar industry for a living, and for them to talk about shutting down GySuCo is very irresponsible,” President Ramotar said in an invited comment to the National Communications Network (NCN)  today.

The President also made the point that consumers of the industry’s produce will also be affected. “The support that Government is making to GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation) in some ways is a payback, because GuySuCo for decades, has been subsiding the prices of sugar for consumers so this is not really a subsidy to GuySuCo, this is actually paying back in some ways to help an industry that for more than a century has been helping to keep the cost of living down in Guyana,” President Ramotar said.

At their press conference on March 11, APNU member Tony Vieira called for the closing down of the sugar industry, and for the country to instead look at aquaculture and ethanol production. President Ramotar however, pointed out that this talk about making the cane field into tilapia farms is ‘ludicrous’ to say the least, even as he noted the togetherness of the Opposition parties on the issue of the sugar industry.

Today at their weekly press conference, the Opposition Party, the Alliance For Change backed APNU’s call for a move from sugar to aquaculture and ethanol production.

President Ramotar pointed out that, “the only time the AFC speaks about sugar is when they want to attack the government and trying to make false promises to the sugar workers about 25 percent increase.”

Government’s continued support to GuySuCo is based on the consideration that the company provides employment for about 17,000 to 20,000 people and indirectly benefit another 120,000. This indirect benefit can be felt in the company’s provision of drainage and irrigation, not only for sugar, but for all other crops in all the areas in which GuySuCo operates. Its drainage and irrigation system also benefits many residential areas.

Meanwhile Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy, responding to the APNU statement, said, “under the PPP/C Government, production increased from the 131,000 tons in 1991 to surpass 300,000 tons by 2002….we have restored production and have surpassed 250,000 tons 13 times in the last 20 years, and three times surpassed 300,000 tons. But we knew production above 300,000 tons could not be sustained unless critical reconfiguration of the sugar industry is undertaken. We have been doing such reconfiguration and this still requires more time. But the reconfiguration will prepare GuySuCo to again routinely produce more than 300,000 tons and to reach 400,000 tons by 2020.”

He noted that new circumstances, such as reduced sugar price, climate change, dwindling labour pools, more expensive equipment and supplies that the sugar industry confronted in the 1990s and up to now have killed many sugar industries around the world. In CARICOM, St. Kitts, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago have all ended sugar. Jamaica, Cuba and other countries have down-sized sugar.

He said while Guyana faces the same challenges, it has not given up, and he remains optimistic that sugar will rebound.

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