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The Future of Guyana’s Sugar Industry

Guysuco Products

The troubles facing the sugar industry in Guyana must be looked at through the eyes of modern innovative niche marketing visionaries and strategists.

Guyana cannot continue to compete with the USA, Europe and others in the traditional markets because of the multinationals' ability to control the market prices by manipulation of supply, subsidies and market protectionism. The leading sugar producing countries use advanced techniques and mechanisms to produce large quantities of sugar from beet and sugar cane, then stockpile and dump product on the world market to manipulate prices in their favor, leaving countries like Guyana with their  underdeveloped manufacturing processes, techniques, industrial capacity and efficiencies to produce their sugar products at prices exceeding the world market prices. This makes Guyana vulnerable and at the mercies of leading sugar producing countries who often grant quotas as part of a carrot and stick relationship.

Guyana must look at ways to produce a product for a specialist market space like the Muscovado brand of sugar that can only be produced in tropical zones and from sugar cane.

Muscovado is sometimes termed as “Poor Man’s Sugar” because it is mostly unrefined and still contains vitamins and minerals from sugar cane, unlike refined ones which lose nutrients in the process of refinement. Muscovado also has a lower calorie content than white sugar and is sold as an organic alternative. The term Muscovado was originally coined between the 17th - 18th century to designate a poorly refined sugar that had retained too high a content of molasses and was deemed low quality.  

Most of the specialized Muscovado sugars come from Mauritius and is unrefined cane sugar with high molasses content depending on whether it is light or dark. Its consistency is like wet sand;  moist and sticky and it can harden if not stored in humidity controlled environments.

Some Muscovado sugar is also exported from India because there is no legal definition or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and manufacturers are free to use the term loosely to describe any dark, molasses-rich sugar they produce.

Guyana, although the original source of Demerara Sugar does not own the rights to the Demerara brand and therefore Demerara Sugar is produced by Mauritius and others. Guyana must then create and brand another name and quality of sugar that can occupy a niche market space.

One of the primary reasons for Guyana to focus on a niche market is the product pricing. The retail cost of refined white sugar is approximately US $0.50 per pound and the cost of Muscovado is around US $6.00 per pound which is a 1200% difference in price for a product that requires fewer resources to produce.

It is time for Guyana to look outward and innovate around its base product. Every day you can see examples of rebranding, as manufacturers of a diverse line of products move with the tide and evolve. Guyana must do the same. The name Demerara has long been associated with rum and sugar. Manufacturers should capitalize on the name recognition by incorporating it into a brand; think Demerara Royal, pronounced Demerara Re-al or Royal Demerara, or Re-al Demerara. In a world where people pay a premium for “organic” food products, why not emphasize that production value along with promoting the natural benefits of vitamins and minerals retained by a product with minimal refinement.

Even if Guyana’s sugar industry in its current state is not viable, steps should be taken to cut cost, increase efficiency and prepare it for sale. If it sold "as is", a predatory “buyer” will get a great bargain in a fire sale.

Of course, this is just a thought, but the days of sugar being “white gold” are over, Guyana has made a huge investment in the industry, albeit, according to some, ill-advised or under dubious circumstances. However, we should not allow our years of developing our agricultural skills and capacity to fade away into the sunset, we must explore all avenues to keep it alive. Many skilled jobs that are unique to the industry will be lost e.g. laboratory, agricultural research, chemists, engineering, etc. If Guyana cannot proceed on its own, I hope that we can negotiate with and secure a collaborative management team whose remuneration will be based results and the corresponding  profitability rather than solely on a huge upfront salary or retainer fees.

 

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