The major challenge for sugar in Guyana is the rain

Dear Editor,

Guyana faces many challenges in the sugar sector, but the most important is the climate. The second most important problem is the labor shortage. At one point, the company employed over 25,000 people; today it is around 7,000. I won’t start too far, so I’ll start in 2010. In 2010, the industry produced 220,818 tons of sugar and employed 17,000 people. I discovered that between 2019 and the previous 20 years [2001-2019] a total of 31,004 MM of rain fell, an average of 1,554 MM per year; over the past 20 years [1978 to 1998] a total of 32,523 MM of rain fell, an average of 1626 MM per year, incredibly in the period from 1969 to 1976, the average annual precipitation was 2116.5 MM. Therefore, annual precipitation appears to be decreasing rather than increasing [GuySuCo’s records].

When we had enough manual labor, we could have a very long cultivation period of more than 200 days a year, and to give an example, we used to sometimes burn three days of cane crushing when the rain limited our ability to burn, as the limiting factor of production was mainly no burnt cane, because even while the rain was falling, workers could cut and load the cane manually. Today the sad reality is that our workforce is shrinking because no one wants to do the onerous task of cutting cane anymore, and we are struggling to produce even when we claim we are able to mechanize the industry. . HOWEVER, the machines cannot operate more than 75-100 days a year in Guyana, our weather does not allow this, and this has seriously affected the industry.

It is a common practice in the industry to replant 20% of the crop each year so as not to transport old pups. So we anticipate that our crops will include plant stems and 4 pups. We rarely carry out our planting programs due to rainfall limiting our days of opportunity for land preparation to 75 days per year. Here, then, is an industry that cannot plow or plow its land with machines for more than 75 days a year, but plans to have mechanical harvesting for 220 days a year. Even though there is some leeway, the fact is that putting these heavy machines in the fields to harvest and the trailers needed to pick up the cane and bring it to the platforms, causes so much compaction, that after harvesting, it MUST be done between the rows TILLING the SOIL to undo the compaction resulting from these operations. BUT, and I calculated it myself, if we are going to harvest 100 days a year by machines with the hectare that we currently have, these factories do not have the capacity to take this amount of cane to make sugar in just 100 days.

The thought behind this is very solid and cannot be resolved by those currently in charge, I will not apologize for writing that they are not. But I want to be constructive, because I support President Ali’s hopes to save the industry, and I have never said that the whole sugar industry should be shut down. I said we should stop producing sugar and take cane and make ethanol. But the PPP’s intransigence in not shutting down the sugar industry is now paying pretty big dividends, since in the Caribbean there are only two sugar-exporting countries left, Guyana and Belize. Due to the Treaty of Chaguaramas and other Caribbean Community agreements, if one entity in the Caribbean produces sugar, all others must purchase it duty-free. If they want to go outside the Caribbean to buy it, the governments have to impose a 40% tariff on it. This creates a huge advantage for Guyana and Belize.

So packaged and bagged sugar in this region doesn’t fetch 12 cents a pound, it’s almost 3 times as much if you bag it and bag it, and if we can produce white sugar it will fetch a lot more at the ton, since all CARICOM territories, including Guyana, need white sugar to make soft drinks, candies, chocolates, etc. It would therefore be a huge asset to have in the future. Ethanol is also much more lucrative than using sugar cane. Briefly Guyana takes between 13 to 15 tons of cane to make a ton of sugar [tc/ts]; Brazil and Australia take 7 tc/ts, that alone tells us that such competition is unrealistic. But Guyana’s sugar cane biomass produces the same amount of ethanol per ton of cane as Brazil and Australia – around 20 to 22 gallons, which significantly levels the playing field.

So it’s very clear that we HAVE to mechanize effectively to survive and since today we’re doing exactly what we did at Enmore and LBI to create machine friendly layouts, which was a complete disaster, we have to take the methods we currently use to create a user-friendly environment. machine harvest diagram, back to the DRAWING board. I want to make it clear that I am not looking for any job in the sugar industry or anywhere else. At 77, I’m not inclined to go to an office every day, I’m just showing what the real situation is, because there is a lot of confusion about where we are and where we need to go for the carry.


Tony Viera

Rachel J. Bradford