(Photo: Guyana Sugar Company)

Guyana records lowest sugar production in 94 years

(Photo: Guyana Sugar Company)

·        GuySuCo to move ahead with plans to expand this year

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has confirmed that sugar production for 2019 had fallen below 100,000 tonnes.

(Photo: Guyana Sugar Company)

The last time sugar production fell below 100,000 tonnes was in 1926, 94 years ago. Despite recording a production shortfall in 2019, GuySuCo managed to sell some 92,246 tonnes of sugar on the local, regional and international markets.

The company blamed the production shortfall on “major” mechanical failures at the Albion and Uitvlugt factories. The Guyana sugar union (GAWU) had warned several times last year about the likely low sugar output and had also cited mechanical failures at factories as a major issue.

“The sugar industry will continue to face challenges to achieving reliability in the factories if operation capital investments continue to be delayed.”

– The Guyana Sugar Company

GuySuCo, which is owned by the government of Guyana, is the country’s largest cultivator and producer of sugar, a commodity which is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of Guyana’s annual revenue and 40 per cent of all agricultural production. The company is noted for selling Demerara Sugar, and also honey and sweeteners.

In a statement to the Guyanese media, GuySuCo said it encountered various challenges throughout the year but the three operational estates, which are the Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt estates, were able to produce a total of 90,246 tonnes of sugar in 2019. According to GuySuCo, some 46,651 tonnes were produced at Albion Estate, 23,325 tonnes at Blairmont Estate and 20,270 tonnes at the Uitvlugt Estate.

Production shortfall

The last time sugar production fell below 100,000 tonnes was 94 years ago.

The production, however, represented an under-achievement of 17,000 tonnes from the estimated second crop production objective. The second crop production was closed on December 21, 2019 but 1,981 hectares could not be harvested and will be carried over to the first crop of this year.

The shortfall was as a result of in excess of 80,000 tonnes of cane from Albion, 60,000 tonnes of cane from Blairmont and 11,000 tonnes of cane from Uitvlugt, not being harvested. GuySuCo said the shortfall has been the consequence of major mechanical failures in the Albion and Uitvlugt factories and from the latter half of October 2019, increasing industrial unrest in which Blairmont was most affected.

Adverse weather from the last week of November also influenced the progress of harvesting. “The sugar industry will continue to face challenges to achieving reliability in the factories if operation capital investments continue to be delayed. However, on a more positive note, the productivity of cane fields continued to improve as reflected by cane yields that exceeded the crop estimate on all estates,” said GuySuCo.

Expansion plans

Despite the foreseen adversities and the incurred challenges, GuySuCo still anticipates the expansion of its operations in the year 2020, with planned improvements in the fields and factories, as well as the commencement of preparatory works for the installation of a cogeneration plant at Albion Estate. This is anticipated to support the supply of power to the East Berbice region.

In addition to the impending development, the corporation also recorded some successes in 2019, when together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they successfully paved the way for the protection of white sugar produced in CARICOM by securing the commitment of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) for the application of the Common External Tariff to all non-regional sugars.

GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Harold Davis. (Photo: dpi.gov.gy)

The feasibility study for the Plantation White Sugar Project was completed and the project was found to be feasible. The corporation has commenced preparations to embark on this new venture in 2020.

Value added products

The addition of Plantation White Sugar and ‘A’ grade molasses for the production of genuine Demerara Rum to the Corporation’s line of value-added products will see an increase in revenues both regionally and internationally for the corporation and all of Guyana. In November last year, it was reported that GuySuCo intends to construct a white sugar plant with the aim of producing some 55,000 tonnes of white sugar per annum.

GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Harold Davis, had said the plan for the project has been in existence since 2017 and it has been updated to reflect new circumstances. According to the GuySuCo chief, the corporation envisages that by 2025 it would be producing some 160,000 tonnes of white sugar.

Davis explained that there are positive signs and already their returns in the fields are above what has been anticipated, though he cautioned that efforts must be sustained to realise the goals set. Guyana exports about 85 percent of its annual sugar output, making sugar the largest source of foreign exchange.

GuySuCo was formed in 1976, when the government of Guyana nationalised and merged the sugar estates operated by Booker Sugar Estates Limited, Tate and Lyle and Jessels Holdings to form the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

Guyana exports brown sugar internationally to the European Union, the United States of America, and the Caribbean Community(CARICOM) countries which include Trinidad, Suriname, St Lucia, Grenada, Antigua, Dominica, Barbados, St Vincent and Jamaica.