Mechanised cane production imminent on 5000 hectares of Skeldon land

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Skeldon Sugar Factory

With the Government having set aside 5000 hectares of land in Skeldon for reintegration into the sugar industry, the government is also eyeing the mechanization of sugar cane production on these lands and the cultivation of new varieties.

President Ali made these remarks during Saturday’s commissioning of Republic Bank’s new $1.2 Billion branch at Williamsburg on the Corentyn. In fact, President Ali noted that the arrangements to have the 5000 hectares of land returned to cultivation were only recently concluded.

“As I speak to you now, we’ve just concluded arrangements to have another 5000 hectares of land in Skeldon, to be reintegrated into the sugar production equation. And we’re going to move to having those lands mechanized.”

“And we’ve already sourced new varieties of canes that will be planted on those lands. So that not only will we achieve or we’re working on achieving the target this year, but we’re also working on achieving higher levels of the target next year,” the President said.

President Ali pointed out what the government has been able to achieve in the last three years when it comes to reopening the sugar industry. This is after the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) government closed down most of the estates.

Back in 2016, the former Government closed the Wales Estate, and the following year, shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall, and Skeldon Estates, putting over 7000 sugar workers on the breadline. The downsizing of the sugar industry resulted in the Uitvlugt, Blairmont, and Albion Estates remaining in operation.

“If you look at what we’ve been able to achieve in the last three years, it’s nothing short of being remarkable. We’ve been able to reopen the sugar industry. We are reinvesting in the modernisation of our sugar lands, so it’ll be sustainable. We’ll be using the best-in-class technology. And that the productivity and competitiveness of the industry will improve in this transformation,” President Ali said.

Decline under APNU/AFC

The sugar industry is not the only agriculture sector that declined under the former government. According to the President, the rice and forestry sectors also experienced declines under the stewardship of the former government.

“We saw a decline in the rice industry. And more significantly than all that, we saw a complete decline in the forestry sector. Over the last three years, we have had to find resources, financial and human, to reinvigorate investment into these traditional sectors.”

“To the extent that we not only bring them back into operation and create jobs, but to the extent of bringing them back into sustainable and resilient sectors. In doing this, we understand that the nature of the human resource pool must also change. To meet the transformation and modernization that we’re investing in the sugar industry.”

Accordingly, the president assured that the government remains committed not only to mechanization, but also to retooling sugar workers to better fit into the new, technology and mechanical-based jobs that will dominate the sector.

“That is why, with the modernization in the field, we’re discussing plans on how we’ll retrain and retool our sugar workers to better function in this newly organized sector. But more importantly, how we’re going to integrate them into the other aspects of expansion that will take place here in Berbice,” President Ali said.

The Ministry of Agriculture was allocated $97.6 billion in Budget 2024 for the advancement of the sugar industry. The largest portion of the agriculture budget, totalling $72.3 billion, is earmarked for drainage and irrigation works, the acquisition of 40 mobile pumps, and $6 billion to bolster the sugar industry, specifically targeting improvements in GuySuCo’s production and operational efficiency.

Additionally, of the $97.6 billion budgeted for the agriculture sector, $1.3 billion would be expended by the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) to support increased production and productivity in the rice industry.

In terms of other crops, cultivation of corn, soya bean, citrus fruits, spices, and coconut, high-value crops such as broccoli, cauliflowers, bell peppers, romaine lettuce, and carrots would be expanded. In 2024, the Government would continue to accelerate coconut production by investing in 39,000 high-yielding seed nuts as 500 additional farmers are targeted.