KINGSTON — The operational capacities of three sugar estates, which the Government has divested to the China National Complete Plant Export Corporation (COMPLANT), have been significantly boosted by the acquisition of some US$15 million worth of machinery and vehicles.
The equipment, which have been procured for Frome, Westmoreland; Monymusk, Clarendon; and Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine, include: tractors, trailer heads, and water trucks, all of which were manufactured in China.
The acquisition forms part of a US$45 million investment by COMPLANT into re-tooling the three estates, since acquiring them from the Government in August. Additional equipment, inclusive of harvesters and loaders, which will be allocated to the three estates, are also expected to arrive in the island in January 2012.
Units allocated to Bernard Lodge were formally unveiled on Thursday
(November 17), during a visit by a delegation led by Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, and Chairman, Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), Ambassador Derrick Heaven.
Minister Montague said that based on the extent of COMPLANT's investments, bumper yields are anticipated for future crops, beginning with the 2011/12 period, as well as a general turnaround in the fortune of the sugar industry.
"The sugar industry is in private hands. The investments of the private sector is redounding to the benefit of the economy and agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), currently at 5.6 per cent, which we hope to move forward. Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture (and) the Government of Jamaica, are pleased with the progress, so far, with COMPLANT," he said.
Ambassador Heaven, in the meantime, is cautiously projecting that the 2011/12 crop will be better than the previous period, disclosing that field assessments are currently being undertaken, to determine the likely extent of outputs.
“With sugar, one has to be very careful about looking down the road because it is subject to so many variables, but we anticipate that at least 156,000 tonnes of sugar should be made this coming crop. We made 142,000 tonnes last year,” he stated.
Ambassador Heaven pointed out that COMPLANT is embarking on a significant cane planting programme, to increase yield over the long-term.
"We are very confident in COMPLANT's entry into the industry and we have already started to see the results… (and) we look forward to a (continued) healthy relationship," he said.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer for subsidiary managing entity, Pan Caribbean Sugar, Francis Hee, stated that the re-tooling programme at the estates will greatly enhance their productivity and competitiveness, while reducing operational costs. Additionally, he said the equipment provided will be used to assist the farmers, who supply the factories with cane.
"We have a three-year plan for the production of the canes. We plan, in three years time, (that)…in (at least) two (of the factories) we will produce 150,000 tonnes of sugar.., up from 70,000; it will be doubled. I’m very confident with the future of our business," Mr. Hee stated.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter