June 25, 2017

Sugar workers register strong opposition to planned closure of East Demerara Estate

East Demerara Estate (Enmore Estate)

East Demerara Estate (Enmore Estate)

In protest at the possible closure of the Enmore sugar factory, workers attached to that East Demerara Estate on Monday marched four miles along the East Coast Demerara highway, close to the village of Enmore, in a move reportedly intended to register their strong opposition to any move to close that estate, and to highlight their plight if this intended action is carried out.

The Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union (GAWU), which organised the march, said in a statement, “At this time, while the Government has not announced formally its position on closure, all indications are that the closure process has begun. For some weeks now, cane planting at the estate has been stopped, which portends that no plans are being made for crops beyond this year.”

Enmore Estate, currently the only remaining estate on the East Coast of Demerara, employs some 2,222 persons and is a major source of livelihood for people living in many rural communities on the Demerara East Coast. GAWU is therefore again calling on the Government to conduct an assessment, as recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to determine the social and economic consequences that would flow from the decision to close this estate.

“In replacing sugar cultivation, the Administration and the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GuySuCo) have identified the implementation of non-sugar ventures such as orchard crops, legumes, rice, livestock, dairy cattle, aquaculture, among other things,” the union stated. Similar ventures were to be established at the recently-closed Wales Estate, the union has said, but they are nowhere close to being fructified at this time.

“Our Union’s examination of the documentation produced by the Corporation in this regard has revealed there are more questions than answers.” The union feels that this new venture will not yield any success, and should not be pursued at this time. GAWU is of the firm view that the East Demerara Estate occupies an important place in the sugar industry, especially since it possesses the larger of the industry’s two (2) sugar packaging plants.

“It is recalled that the Corporation receives its highest return on packaged sugar. Moreover, the Estate’s mechanisation programme is far advanced, and many of its field operations can be done mechanically,” the GAWU statement outlines. The operations of the LBI Estate were, in 2016, amalgamated with those of the Enmore Estate in a move which was slated to save the cane operations, according to GuySuCo.

“Our Union stands in solidarity with the workers and residents (who would be affected by the closure) and is also strongly against the closure and sell-out of any sugar estates,” the GAWU statement read.

Government has said the Wales Estate was closed after billions of dollars were accrued in losses over the years. At high-level sugar consultations held last year between GuySuCo, the Union and the Opposition, Government had disclosed that only three estates would be kept functional.