Proposed $2B budgetary sum would ensure better performing sugar factories – Minister Mustapha

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has said the proposed $2 billion budgeted for critical capital works at the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is another intervention by the PPP/C Government to ensure better production and productivity at sugar factories.

The Minister made this statement while appearing as a guest on NCN’s “Budget in Focus” Tuesday evening.

This year’s contribution to GuySuCo will take the total to $9 billion since the Government was sworn into office on August 2 last. This year’s $2 billion allocation was announced by Hon. Dr. Ashni Singh, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance in his Budget presentation on Friday.

The Agriculture Minister said while $7 billion was previously injected to revamp the ailing sector last year, there was a need for additional funds.

“What we found in the industry is that the three operating Estates, Uitvlugt Blairmont and Albion, needed critical capital works. The previous Administration would have neglected these works and as a result of that these estates were limping along.

As a matter of fact, the capacity of these estates was between 50 to 60 per cent. Now with these funds, I am hoping that by the end of the out-of-crop season, some capital work will be executed for us to have better performing factories, so that we can have more juice being extracted from the sugar canes.”

Minister Mustapha said to date, GuySuCo has rehired almost 1,000 workers whose jobs were axed by the closure of the sugar estates under the previous APNU+AFC Government.

“GuySuCo has a time table and we will be working with this. Some estate and factories will start operations different times. But not only the Government must aid in getting these operations back up, we are looking at a public-private partnership too so we can get the estates up and working more efficiently.

As Minister of Agriculture, I would like to see the cost of production go down and the first aim is to break even. GuySuCo is selling sugar for less than what they are producing, so the first objective for me is to ensure we come at a break-even point and later on, we look at profitability.”

The Minister said the only way to achieve this goal is to spend money to develop the estates, both the fields and the factories. In fact, he said, work must first be done in the fields to increase yield per hectare.

Meanwhile, a new Board of Directors comprising individuals with diverse skills sets and competencies was appointed at GuySuCo, along with a new management team. Minister Mustapha has instructed the executives to conduct a detailed diagnostic analysis of the sugar industry as a masterplan, estate by estate, is being developed to guide the future of the industry.

The PPP/C Government, through the 2020 Emergency Budget had pumped $7 billion into the sugar sector. Some $3 billion was initially provided to start the phased reopening process of the mills.

The Ministry subsequently received $4 billion in supplementary funding in December to offset critical capital works at GuySuCo in keeping with its objective to revitalise the industry.

With the first crop quickly approaching, GuySuCo is undergoing major rehabilitation works. It is anticipated that some 42,609 metric tonnes of sugar will be produced during the first crop. The Corporation target this year is set at 97,420 metric tonnes of sugar.