A number of cane farmers expressed concerns about the infeasibility of transporting canes from West Bank Demerara to Uitvlugt Estate on West Coast of Demerara.
Roger Caryll at his farm
Speaking with Guyana Times on the issue of transporting cane, farmers explained that for this to happen access roads and bridges have to be constructed to facilitate this move.
They also said that while they transport anywhere from 6-10 trawlers of canes to Wales, the distance to Uitvlugt could only yield 1 trip per day. Devindra Mohabir a tractor operator described the journey as “the road the hell.”
From right: Avenash Ramharack, Mohamed Abu, Talib Khan and Dennis Mootoveren
Some farmers said they will go into cultivating other crops while others said Government must reverse its decision to close the estate.
Hesley Jacobs from La Retraite, WBD, started cane farming in the 1960s which was passed from his father. Jacobs and his brother cultivate 50 acres but plan to plant suckers, cassavas and pigeon peas by next crop. He stated that while his children are all grown, he continues to support several grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Jacobs observed that he cannot go the Uitvlugt route and citied the difficulties farmers would encounter with transiting their produce.
“You have to go through Number One Canal, then you have to go through A-Line, then you have to go to Centre Line, then to Leonora high bridge, then to get to the factory you have to go out on the road so it wouldn’t be an easy task, the cost would be high so you wouldn’t be able to upkeep that,” Jacobs explained.
Neil Levans, a farmer for many years, noted that the Levans family has been planting cane since Bookers ran the estates—before they were nationalised.
He especially echoed the sentiments that the distance to Uitvlugt is too tall, it involves costly wear-and-tear on machinery, etc and has nixed the idea of transporting to that location.
The Caryll family has been in the industry well over 40 years. The brothers stated all they know is sugarcane cultivation.
Orland Caryll, 45, has been farming for over 20 years and he plans to diversify into rice, cassava and beans. He stated that his family will be affected by the closure as he has two dependent children and predicted that Wales will become a “ghost town.”
“Shops and business will be affected directly and indirectly,” stated the farmer.
His brother Roger, a father of 9 with three children currently in school, stated that he has recently paid off his loans and estimated that the closure will cause him to lose “millions” in investments. The farmer expressed disappointment that no official from the Agriculture Ministry came to address the closure with farmers.
“The most hurtful thing is that they never find time to meet with the farmers,” stressed the Carylls.
Avenash Ramharack, 20, is a young farmer who took over from his father. He claimed that his father died of a heart attack after hearing the news of the closure. He has also called for a reversal of the closure.
Sadik Hussain, who has his farm in Canal Number Two stated that his family has been in cane farming over 70 years and observed that sugar is “in his blood.”
Mohamed Abu Talib Khan had seen the closure of Versailles and moved to Wales Estate in 1979, noting that was an “easy transition” but stated that to transport to Uitvlugt would be “impossible”. He further noted that farmers are at crossroads as the price of sugar is not feasible.
It was explained that farmers once received $104,000 per tonne of cane but that has reduced to $58,000.
Many of the farmers emphasised that Government is “not looking into their interests.”
Following a report in Guyana Times in January, Government and Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) confirmed the estate’s closure, citing that Wales would account for losses between $1.6-1.9 billion.