The state-owned Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited (SCJH) has commenced the upgrading of its three remaining sugar factories to meet the 2010 crop, using funds from the US$15 million (J$1.3 billion) pre-shipment financing arrangement with Italian firm, Eridania Suisse.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, confirmed at a press briefing at the Bernard Lodge Sugar Estate, St. Catherine, on Wednesday (August 19), that an initial US$10 million allocation from the interim funding to be supplied by Eridania is being utilised.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (right), converses with (from left): Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry, and General Manager of Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited (SCJH), John Gayle, during a media briefing and tour of Bernard Lodge sugar estate in St. Catherine, on Wednesday, August 19, to provide an update on the upgrading and divestment exercise at that factory, and those at Monymusk in Clarendon, and Frome in Westmoreland.
Dr. Tufton informed the House of Representatives, last month, that the Government negotiated the interim funding with Eridania to ensure the continued operation of its three factories- Frome, Westmoreland, Monymusk, Clarendon and Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine. The money is to be used to undertake field maintenance work on the three estates, as well as preparatory works for the factories. The Government has been pursuing negotiations with Eridania towards the sale of the factories and Petrojam Ethanol Limited.
The briefing was part of a media tour of the facility, jointly organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the SCJH, to provide an update on developments at the three entities.
General Manager of SCJH, John Gayle, told the briefing that from the initial US$10 million allocation, the equivalent of $600 million will be spent on machine upgrading, with another $650 million going towards direct agricultural inputs such as ratoon maintenance, replanting, harvesting, and irrigation.
Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (2nd right), speaks with employee at the Bernard Lodge sugar estate in St. Catherine, Theresa Budram, during a tour of the property on Wednesday, August 19, while colleague workers (from left), Jacqueline Watson, and Raina Dyer, look on. The tour, which incorporated members of the media, was organised by the Ministry and Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited, to provide an update on the upgrading and divestment process for the three remaining state-run sugar factories at Bernard Lodge, Frome in Westmoreland, and Monymusk in Clarendon. Looking on in the background is Chairman of Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings Limited, and the Government’s Sugar Companies Divestment Company, Aubyn Hill.
Regarding machinery, Mr. Gayle lamented the poor state of the equipment, which he said resulted in “thousands of sugar” being lost during the 2009 crop.
“The factories were not repaired, the mills were not replaced and the processing houses and boilers were in a bad condition. We had high expenditure in purchasing fuel, (while) losing sugar in bagasse (cane residue after crushing). So we are upgrading Frome and Monymusk to ensure that factory efficiency improves significantly,” he said.
He disclosed that for the first time in 15 years, the SCJ has been able to make “substantial” orders and pre-payments on all items for the factories, which they have ordered overseas. These are expected to begin arriving in the island by the end of September.
“We already have down payments on some 21 rollers (used in the cane crushing process). We also have 10 rollers that came late for last year’s (2009) crop, which we are actually preparing to start installation now. So we will have for the crop coming up, 31 new rollers,” Mr. Gayle announced.
“We are going to be receiving those rollers in September, in time to have them put in place and tested, (and) ready to start the crop in December. That should go a far way in ensuring that the factories are up and ready to run. We are confident that the factories are going to be running efficiently,” Mr. Gayle assured.
Regarding cane cultivation, he said that some $170 million will be spent on the planting and replanting of 1,500 hectares of land ; $80 million to improve irrigation infrastructure; $130 million to improve harvesting efficiency at the three facilities.
In order to provide Eridania with the 79,000 tonnes agreed on, Mr. Gayle explained that 11,000 of the combined 17,000 hectares of “cultivatable” lands at Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge are being targeted to provide upwards of 500,000 tonnes of cane, with another 310,000 tonnes expected from farmers who also supply the factories.
“The communities surrounding the cane growing areas, which number over 200 small and large communities, will benefit significantly from this project. The cane farmers who normally supply canes to the Bernard Lodge, Monymusk, and Frome factories, for the next crop (in 2010), have a certainty that their crop will be milled at a factory and they will be able to sell their cane and earn an income. So it provides that assurance of market for over 3,000 cane farmers,” he stated.