APNUAFC destruction of Black Cane Farmers of West Demerara

this is not a chronological assessment of the APNUAFC administration. I am highlighting a few areas in no specific order of importance. we began with The leadership of APNUAFC must resign immediately and followed with APNUAFC leadership thought the 2015 elections was a war

let’s talk about GUYSUCO and cane

most town people and sophisticated country people know little to nothing about sugar cane and how the industry works in Guyana. this is also true of the leadership and many rank and file members of APNUAFC

without getting into all the fineries. all cane grown in Guyana is sold to GUYSUCO which is a state owned entity. The farmers are paid on the amount of cane and also on the amount of sugar produced. we can get deeper into cane politics another time

my family has been engaged in the selling of cane to GUYSUCO from the inception of this program in 1964. The proper name of the entity back then would’ve been Bookers since Guyana was still two years away from independence. a program was started to get private farmers to plant cane and sell to the estate.

if you cross the harbour bridge and go left there are over 70 villages engaged in cane farming and selling cant to GUYSUCO. the first village is la grange, then comes bagotville where you turn into number one canal. There are about twenty five villages in the canal. All these villages are engaged in cane farming and there is a significant presence of Black cane farmers on the West Bank.

Understand when I say cane farmers I am not talking about cane cutters or as we call them now cane harvesters. I am talking about people who own the land and cultivate it for a living.

Continuing south along the West Demerara public road Bagotville, Nismes, Toevlugt to LaRetraite and Stanleytown. This is where the Jacobs family is from and the LaRetraite Stanleytown Cane Farmers Coop is the largest private cane farmers co-op in Guyana. It is also the only one I know of in all of Guyana that was certified fair trade by the European Union. We paid for that.

Almost all of these these villages have Afro Guyanese cane farmers. Inner Stanleytown (Number 2 Canal also have Afro Guyanese cane farmers. There are less villages in Number 2 Canal than Number 1 Canal but they are about the same length, 7 miles from the public road to the conservancy.

Then you head further south back along the Demerara river to Bellevue, Goed Intent, Sisters, Wales, Patentia, Vriesland, Vive la Force, Potosi and Free and Easy. Villages unknown to most Guyanese but populated by Afro Guyanese planting cane and other crops.

There is a misguided notion that cane farming in Guyana is an East Indian affair. This belief is not only held by Afro Guynese from town. Most Guyanese I would say are not familiar with the inner workings of the sugar industry and do not know the extent of Afro Guyanese families farming cane and rice at all levels for generations.

APNUAFC came to power promising to close off some of the estates and retool GUYSUCO. I did not have an issue with this as we made solid proposals to various agencies of government on how cane farmers, cane cutters and other able bodies individuals from our villages can easily transition to other forms of agriculture production using the land and irrigation system of the cane fields.

I had no problem closing down Wales Estate if it was not making money, but my voice was in the minority. Other cane farmers wanted the estate handed over to the coops and they felt they could make a go at it and bring it back to profitability.

Another thing you will never seen in the press. East Indian slash PPP affiliated farmers stole, plundered and looted Wales Estate. If they needed spares for their tractors they made a call and had someone would steal it from the estate. If they wanted fertilisers, limestone etc they all had their ways and means of plundering from the same estate they sold their canes to. There was also an active trade in stolen sugar and molasses. That’s another episode.

while I disagreed with the others we all had some basic things we explained to government officials that we needed: leases to the lands that were going to be divested, access to financing and duty free concessions on agriculture equipment and supplies.

many promises were made by various individuals in the government. The minister rolled out of bed one day and announced from his Regent Road office that he closing of the estate. Up to that point, I do not recall ever seeing Mr. Noel Holder anywhere on the West Bank meeting or talking to cane farmers.

This is a man who ascended to the Minister portfolio for simply being the husband of a dead founding member of the AFC.

if memory serves me correctly, within two days, Jagdeo and his PPP clowns were at the front gates of Wales Estate holding a massive rally. A week later AFC brass showed up to speak to the people. I dont recall seeing Holder, he may have been there but I dont recall seeing him. He announced he had a plan which would soon be released. To date, we have not seen this plan.

Since every village on the West Bank is engaged in cane farming, the economic effects were devastating. The Wales Saturday market which would last til the afternoon was closing up before noon. The spin off effects on businesses in the villages was immediate. It was also a huge psychological blow on the communities.

Noel Holder and friends told us we can pull our cane to Uitvlugt Estate. I wont waste time here on that except to say. A lot of Black owned farms were located in villages that were established to use the punt system of Wales estate to transport their cane. How were they to get this cane to Uitvlugt? Holder promised a road to Uitvlugt and we were left with a mud dam. The whole scheme was madness.

The part no one speaks about is the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS Afro Guyanese had invested in their farms. Tractor, trailers, ploughs, land preparation, fertiliser, chemicals, cane tops et cetera et cetera. A lot of fields were abandoned in frustration but loans still have to be paid back.

The final insult tossed in our faces by APNUAFC was the sharing out of the land and assets of Wales Estate while ignoring the cane farmers and harvesters who requested. we watched as big companies, businessmen from elsewhere and the politically connected gobbled up the land, machinery and real estate leaving us economically devastated. As faith would have it some of these businessmen are affiliated with the other side.

The sugar industry was already destroyed by the PPP and friends and was on life support but what Noel Holder and the bigger ones of APNUAFC did was rip everything apart with no plan on the way forward. The PPP had no plan then and have none now either but this is not a discussion about them.

Afro Guyanese cane farmers of West Demerara paid and continue to pay a steep price for APNUAFC willful ignorance.


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