Even as continued strike actions by sugar workers propelled the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to issue threats of halting the current crop, grinding continues at the Wales Sugar Estate, on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD). At La Retraite, WBD, on Saturday, Guyana Times witnessed cane cutters hard at work loading the produce of private cane farmers onto trailers which would then be attached to a tractor before being transported to the Wales estate.
The imminent closure of the estate will put many sugar workers and farmers on the breadline, with many surmising that the community of Wales would become a “ghost town”.
On March 7, Guyana Times reported on a number of cane farmers who expressed concerns over the infeasibility of transporting canes from West Bank to Uitvlugt Estate on the West Coast of Demerara.
Farmers had explained that for transport of canes to occur, access roads and bridges would have to be constructed. The farmers also said that while they transport anywhere from six to 10 trailers of canes to Wales, the distance to Uitvlugt could only yield one trip per day.
Some farmers said they will go into cultivating other crops, while others said Government must reverse its decision to close the estate.
Too costly to upkeep
La Retraite farmer Hesley Jacobs related that he along with his brother planted 50 acres of canes but plan to divert to planting suckers, cassavas and pigeon peas by next crop. Jacobs noted that he cannot afford to go to Uitvlugt 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 able to upkeep that,” Jacobs had explained.
These views were also echoed by Neil Levans, who said that the distance to Uitvlugt is too far and has nixed the idea of transporting canes to the location. Roger Caryll had related that he recently paid off his loans and estimated that the closure will cause him to lose “millions” in investments.
The farmer had expressed disappointment that none of the officials at the Agriculture Ministry came to address the impact of the closure with farmers.
Mohamed Abu Talib Khan, who moved to Wales Estate in 1979, following the closure of Versailles, noted that transport to Uitvlugt would be “impossible”. He further stated that farmers are at a 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 been reduced to $58,000 per tonne.
Many of the farmers emphasised that the Government is “not looking into their interests.”
Following a report carried in Guyana Times in January, Government and GuySuCo confirmed the estate’s closure, citing that Wales accounted for losses between $1.6-$1.9 billion.