It was most informative to read in SN of the prompt Report on GuySuCo’s operations for year 2021. First of all, one must sympathise with the Corporation having to cope with the agricultural challenges posed by historic floods, even though no statistic is provided about the active amount of rainfall – which is normally recorded and reported daily across the industry. This is one reason why the percentage comparison with rainfall in ‘the previous year’ makes little sense. (For example, in 1976 the rainfall reported was 167 inches – the wettest year to that date).
Nor is there any reference to the actual production in ‘the previous year’. Interspersed however is puzzling mention of 4,300 hectares of sugar canes being equivalent to 52,000 house lots, the implication of which would be lost on citizens located in other parts of the country with house lots of varying dimensions.
In the process it would have done no harm to identify to the public the ‘Berbice Estate’ other than ‘Albion’ (correctly known as Albion/PM). Incidentally, the ‘2nd Crop’ target was not specified.
At the same time however, one applauds the proposed strategy of greater mechanisation – aimed at reducing the periodicity of each crop – a proposal that would however be more intelligible if comparable information were provided about the current normal lengths (weeks) of the respective crops.
In the meantime, one is impressed with the commonsense of reconstructing a 5-year Strategic Plan. Hopefully, the latter will take account of critically needed human resources capacity – a priority of which must be in the area of agricultural research, taking into account the prospective climate dispensation, amongst other issues.
In this regard attention also has to be paid to identifying a qualified full-time Agriculture Director. The current acting incumbent is known to be an Estate retiree whose performance record was inadequate – in the very Berbice area.
The situation therefore requires respected and appropriately qualified leadership, if feasible, with knowledge of the Berbice and Demerara agriculture terrain. Past under-performance can hardly be motivational to colleagues who know the incumbent actor. (In short
advertise immediately for a qualified and experienced Agriculture Director).
Concurrently, it is critical that the substantive Head of the Corporation’s Agriculture Research Unit not be diverted from concentrating on the crisis in cane quality adverted to in the Report, and which is likely to obtain for the indefinite future.
A further critical developmental factor to be included in the Strategic Plan is the long-standing provision of scholarships to relevantly qualified staff – in both agriculture and engineering at the University of Guyana; while young field aspirants are accorded similar access to the Guyana School of Agriculture.
One would hope that the above considerations would be contained in the revised Strategic Plan. Yet its ambitions can well be subverted by the industrial relations scenario – one that may well be described as ‘indulgent’ relations. For it is necessary to ask: how in the space of two short flooded crops is it possible to suffer the loss of 20,000 man-days in production – as a result of 63 strikes, or roughly 317 man-days per strike. All this against a background of financial generosity to sugar workers (and ex-workers) in the same year.
It is long overdue at this critical juncture of the retrieval, and survival, of the sugar industry that the operative workers’ representation understands the need to give more positive support to the management in achieving future targets, for which indeed agreed incentives have long been payable. GuySuCo’s managers must therefore include in the next Strategic Plan a design for a most collaborative relationship with the GAWU, particularly against the background of a chronic worker shortage.
Such initiatives are urgently needed in light of increasingly better educated sugar communities whose families look forward to more rewarding careers in an increasingly competitive employment market. In other words, the industry is becoming less an employer of first choice.
It is not enough to wish the industry to do well. It is better that we commit to supporting it to reap the economic and social returns of its investment.
Finally, one hopes that in the interest of production at Uitvlugt Estate the contribution of West Demerara cane farmers would be adequately addressed in the revised Strategic Plan.
Hopefully, the Plan would emphasise the need for Performance Appraisal exercises to be conducted as precursor to a viable Succession Plan – aimed at developing future reliable managers and supervisors.
Human Resources Management