Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

Private cane farmers on Corentyne owe more than $ 5 billion dollars to commercial banks and cannot service their loans.
The loans were taken following a tripartite agreement with the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) as the guarantor and it is expected that these farmers will provide 34 per cent of the cane needed at the Skeldon factory as the grinding begins in a year’s time.
The aggrieved farmers met with Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh on Saturday to vent their frustration and find a solution.
During the meeting, former MP Adrian Anamaya explained that due to the deteriorated fields, a significant amount of money is needed to make it operational.
He told the Minister that banks will not lend money to farmers. Prakash Singh, who has been in the industry for more than three decades, explained that GuySuCo did not fulfill its part of the tripartite agreement, so the farmers are in the current dilemma.

Sugarcane grown by private farmers on the Upper Corentyne

However, Krischan Jaichand, Corentyne Chamber of Commerce (CCC), noted that farmers need cash to get back into business.
However, Minister Singh noted that the Government would have been instrumental in the early stages of the design of the agreement involving GuySuCo, the cane farmers and the financial institutions.
He said that the People / Civic Progressive Party Government (PPP / C) is not in the business of making unrealistic promises. “I can’t promise you we will take over the loads because we can’t,” he told the farmers.
Speaking to the media after the meeting, Minister Singh explained that he will be meeting with the Bankers Associations with the aim of restructuring the loans and providing them in a way that they can be serviced and beneficial to all stakeholders.
He noted that there is a clause in the tripartite agreement which states that the Government may at some point consider providing tax relief on the interest payable on these loans.
“We have said publicly that we will activate that clause which should trigger a restructuring of the loans. So, first of all, what we’re going to do is activate that tax relief clause in relation to the loans given on this particular facility. After taking those steps we will then engage with the banks to see what can be done in relation to these loans because we want to see these farmers back into active production, ”said Minister Singh .
The farmers left the meeting quite dissatisfied as they hoped they would get a commitment from the Government as it relates to those loans.
In the meantime, the tripartite agreement was signed during the development of the new Skeldon factory as it was anticipated that the private cane farmers would play an integral part in its operation.
“There were a variety of terms in this agreement. Essentially, it was a facility where the banks agreed to lend money to private cane farmers to develop their private cane farms with commitments accepted by all parties, ”explained Minister Singh.
As he was involved in the closure of the Skeldon Estate, he said the closure of the sugar industry was one of the biggest economic disasters.
“If you look across the economic history of this country, the APNU / AFC Government decision to close sugar was one of the most disastrous decisions made in terms of its economic implications. We have seen the effects of the decision to close sugar, as a result of the closure of the whole economy of the sugar industry in all sugar producing areas including the Corentyne, the whole of West Demerara and places like Enmore and LBI, the implications of being truly devastating . ”
He added that the current Ministry recognized the importance of sugar to the economy as a whole.
“And we’ve recognized this for a long time. We have been investing in the industry for a long time and our intention is to ensure that we are able to resuscitate the industry and bring it back to a point where it can operate in a viable way, ”the Finance Minister noted. .

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