Improving efficiency at GuySuCo a “top priority” – new CEO Paul Cheong

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Paul Cheong

Newly-appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Paul Cheong has identified improving efficiency at the State-run company as one of his top priorities now that he has officially assumed the job.

Cheong assumed the mantle of CEO of the State-run company last month. In an interview with this publication, Cheong, who formerly served as Chairman of the Private Sector Commission (PSC), spoke about his priorities at the sugar company. One such priority is improving efficiency and reducing wastage of cane in the production process.

“We have to increase the yield, and we have to also reduce the amount of cane it takes to make a tonne of sugar. So, improve efficiency. So, those are some things we’re working on. We’ve got to motivate the staff. Everyone is part of the organisation and we need a highly-motivated staff.”

Meanwhile, Cheong explained that he was still settling into his role at the company, but given his background in agriculture, he was quite familiar with the sugar cane industry. In this regard, the CEO was confident that he could tackle existing challenges at GuySuCo.

“I’ve been involved in cane, planting cane and so on, from a (young age) … I know the industry well. I’m passionate about sugar. Getting the company profitable, because a lot of families and communities depend on GuySuCo,” he noted.

With respect to external assistance to the State-run company, including from countries such as Guatemala and India, the CEO said this was still being explored. According to Cheong, “we’re exploring places we can get technical assistance. That is still in the exploratory stage.”

In one of his first acts as CEO, Cheong had met with specialists from Cuba at Blairmont Estate last Friday. This was with the view of exploring areas of collaboration with Cuba, to improve the estate.

“GuySuCo is thrilled to welcome specialised talent on board to enhance our factory and field operations. This initiative is geared towards fortifying our capabilities and driving excellence as we propel GuySuCo forward,” the sugar company had said in a brief statement.

The CEO had also met the factory and field staff of Blairmont Estate, for the first time. During that meeting, Cheong had expressed that he was “here this afternoon to tell you that I am part of the family and I want to see all of us do well.”

Cheong served as PSC Chairman for two consecutive years. He was first elected to the post in April 2021 and re-elected in 2022. His immediate predecessor at GuySuCo, Sasenarine Singh, has since been identified as Guyana’s Ambassador to Brussels, Belgium.

In April, President Dr Irfaan Ali had said that a new management team would be appointed to run GuySuCo, with the assistance of external partners, coupled with, at the time, the yet-to-be-announced new CEO for the company.

Last year, GuySuCo accomplished a noteworthy milestone by exceeding its yearly sugar output target of 60,000 tonnes. In the sugar sector, 28 per cent growth was recorded last year. This was as a result of GuySuCo having produced 60,204 tonnes in 2023, compared with 47,049 tonnes in 2022.

With the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government having injected over $17 billion into the sugar industry and currently supporting close to 8000 workers, President Ali has, for some time, made it clear that his Administration would continue to invest in the sector to bring it up to viability.

Between 2016 and 2017, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) regime closed several estates across Guyana – an action that displaced more than 7000 sugar workers, who were not only without jobs but who had no means to support their families and contribute to their villages as well as the national economy.

Since assuming office in August 2020, the PPP/C Government has undertaken a slew of measures to revive the sugar sector, and rehired some 2000 of those dismissed workers.The PPP/C had promised in its manifesto to revive sugar and reopen these estates.

However, after it was found that the assets at Wales Estate were sold out by the previous regime, the PPP/C Government announced plans to establish a Development Authority, where several major industrial operations would be undertaken. Similarly, the Enmore Sugar Estate is also being transformed into an industrial area.

Meanwhile, the Government’s efforts to reopen the Rose Hall Estate saw a whopping $1.1 billion being expended last year to have the facility up and running. A summary of the major works included both civil and structural interventions – including rehabilitation of the cane gantry, pre-milling, milling, boiler and process house roofing.