Government has announced a number of wide-ranging measures to assist private cane farmers. With over 3,000 of these in operation, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, yesterday also signaled the intention of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to increase the amount of canes to be purchased from them.
During a meeting with several representatives from co-ops across the coastlands, minus those from Skeldon, Berbice, the Minister announced that with immediate effect, the private cane farmers will be getting $5,000 more per tonne.
The measures by government are to the tune of $600M.
Immediately also, charges to use punts and machinery of GuySuCo will be slashed by 10% and 25% respectively and half of the fertilizers required by the private cane farmers for the next crop will be provided.
Also at the meeting with the farmers was Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Paul Bhim.
GuySuCo has targeted 300,000 tonnes of sugar to be produced for 2011 and it is the hope that 35% of canes eventually will be supplied by the private farmers. Currently, Skeldon is the only estate that has hit the 35% mark for canes being supplied by private farmers.
According to the Minister, the current financial situation of GuySuCo and a number of meetings between the farmers and President Jagdeo have spurred the initiative, especially as sugar is playing such a crucial role for the economy.
Already a number of farmers have joined up with Fair Trade, an international incentive program which pays more for the sweetener which is branded for quality.
With increasing complaints also of dam access, Persaud noted that government has allocated $250M for the purchase of five bulldozers.
GuySuCo, annually, purchases in excess of $2.6B in canes from private farmers. Of this amount, $1.4B goes to farmers in Berbice who supply Skeldon.
The official noted that several issues still continue to plague the industry, including the timely movement of cane to the factory. A few years ago, there was not enough cane. This is not the case now, however.
A poor turnout, which averaged in the mid-40% last year, has not improved much in 2011. Almost 500,000 tonnes of cane were carried over from 2010 with an early start to the crop made in January. But rains from the La Nina condition have affected the harvest.
According to Bhim, GuySuCo has revised upwards the first crop target to 138,000.
The previous target was 102,000 tonnes. The CEO noted that while rains could affect that revised target, the 300,000 tonnes figure set for 2011 is not beyond the horizon.
Meanwhile, a number of cane farmers who operated in Diamond, East Bank of Demerara, are set to meet with GuySuCo tomorrow.
With the Diamond estate closed and government ceasing operations at La Bonne Intention, the 28 private cane farmers would have had to send their harvests to Enmore. Bhim acknowledged that the transportation costs and distance would have been a major prohibitive factor.
Kaieteur News understands that a number of these cane farmers have already ceased operations.
Last year, as price cuts by the EU took full effect, and coupled with a low turnout, GuySuCo recorded one of its worst years of production.
This year, the price for sugar on the world market has been among the best in recent times.