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Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke has informed that at least five foreign and local companies have expressed an interest in acquiring assets of the state run Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ).
Speaking in the House of Representatives on February 20, Mr. Clarke pointed out that the companies are: Angostura Limited (Trinidad); Coimex (Brazil); Dhamphur Sugar Mills (India); Energen Development Limited (Jamaica); and J. Wray and Nephew Limited (Jamaica).
He explained that the companies were selected based on a successful track record in operating sugar industries; the ability to raise money for the venture; corporate reputation; technical capability; qualifications of key persons; experience in operating in other countries; and operations in developing countries.
“The pre-qualified companies will be invited in due course to purchase the Information of Memorandum for the privatization of Government-owned assets of the Jamaican sugar cane industry and submit a proposal. At that time, the final bid will be negotiated,” informed Mr. Clarke. “We expect negotiations to be concluded by July 2007. I must point out that notwithstanding the closure of the initial exercise, we are still receiving enquiries. We are currently reviewing these enquiries to determine if, and how they can be accommodated,” the Minister added.
Mr. Clarke said the Government was optimistic about the prospects for divestment of the sugar industry. However, he noted that the “process is lengthy and will take some time before the divestment is finalized”. “The quantum of funds required to implement the Country Strategy for Sugar will require massive investments to expand cane production and improve factories. Therefore, if privatization fails, the Government is already committed in absorbing the debts of the SCJ and improving and sustaining operational efficiency in the cane fields and factories, in its effort to attain a viable sugar cane industry with an increased product base,” he said.
The Minister said it should be noted that a new Board has been recently appointed for the Sugar Company of Jamaica. “At the operational level, new management is also in place, with each estate having its own resident Manager,” he pointed out.
“Government is committed to ensure the existence of a viable sugar industry, given its tremendous impact on the economic, social, and environmental fabric of our country,” emphasised Mr. Clarke.