It means that GuySuCo’s contribution to the economies of communities and the society as a whole is very significant. Much of the history of Guyana is rooted in sugar. The dynamics include: culture, ethnicity, social development, community relations, education and medical services, among others. Therefore one can understand the magnitude of the impact of decisions which have to be made by the Corporation and the need to bring the best minds together to find solutions to the challenges such a major player must address.
Notwithstanding the above, GuySuCo at this point of its history is adapting to change. The issues the Corporation faces range from unfavourable market prices, low production, high production cost, an unfriendly industrial relations climate, aged factories and equipment, reduced human capacity and capabilities, and a G$ 82 billion debt, among others.
Currently the Corporation produces sugar at US42 cents per pound and sells at US17 cents per pound. This clearly does not make good economic sense. Significant capital investment is obviously needed to upgrade the estates to a level that would considerably increase production at an economic cost.
Since sugar production is predominantly science–based, significant investment is also needed to upgrade the laboratories and other science –related facilities in order to improve the yields and the quality of crops generally.
The government has given, and committed G$21 billion to GuySuCo for the past twelve months. The Corporation is well aware that the latter cannot continue to provide such bailouts annually; particularly without getting returns on its investment; and while business continues as usual. There is no question that profound change is needed.
Nevertheless, like most business entities the size of GuySuCo, while the challenges might be enormous, very often they create the environment for tremendous opportunities to re-think, re-organise and re-engineer. However, this would require some bold decisions to be made. The consequences of not taking these decisions at the right time can be even more detrimental.
In examining the realities therefore, a fundamental question to consider is, whether sugar can continue to be the core business of GuySuCo? The answer from the Corporation’s perspective is no. Therefore serious consideration has to be given to diversifying its operations and products.
As a matter of fact, important decisions have already been taken to diversify the Corporation from a mono crop and product entity to become involved in other ventures. Currently, feasibility studies are being conducted in aquaculture, fruit crops, livestock and dairy farming, among others.
Amongst the tough business decisions to be made is the identification of locations to be utilised in the implementation of the diversification programme. It was against this background that the Wales Estate was selected as the location to be used for the pilot project of the programme.
As GuySuCo transitions, it is logical that other components of the sugar industry will transition also; hence moving forward relevant stakeholders will be involved in the decision-making process. Major shifts in thinking and behaviours are required.
In the more immediate future, as the Corporation prepares for the second crop, it will have to strategise to improve the industrial relations climate which has been inhibiting the achievement of targets. Employees would be expected to improve performance, so that the business can be more productive. Basically if employees of the Corporation would like to receive more, then there has to be an understanding that they must give more, this is a basic business principle. It is just not rational for them to withdraw their labour with the frequency they have done in the past and still expect that the Corporation will be in a position to give more. They will simply continue to shoot themselves in the foot and hasten the demise of the Corporation. Employees will have to decide whether they will give their best to their employer or continue to be misled to their own detriment and that of the entire industry.
One important point to note in these discussions is that GuySuCo is not getting out of sugar. Another fundamental point from the national perspective is that, in order for GuySuCo to successfully weather the storms ahead, much foresight and business acumen will be required.