Minister of Agriculture, Sugar Enterprise Team Head Express Confidence In Sugar Divestment Process


Head of the Sugar Enterprise Team, Aubyn Hill, says that he is confident that the Government will divest its sugar assets, despite the global economic crisis.”We cant stop being willing to go out there and put our assets up for sale, and negotiate in good faith,” Mr. Hill responded to questions at Wednesday’s(February 4) post cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, about the likelihood of a deal following the aborted discussions with Brazil’s Infinity Bio-Energy(IBE).
“We are going back out there in an environment that is hostile, and we are taking an asset which is far less than attractive but, even in the toughest of times, there are opportunities and somebody, since they can’t any longer be investing in hedge funds and alternative schemes, might just begin to look at real viable businesses, and put their money there,” he added.
Mr. Hill explained that the talks with Infinity broke down because of the Brazilian company’s inability to procure the necessary financing. However, he said that some successes have been achieved in the process, so far.
These include the acquisition of titles for the five state-owned factories in transferrable form, as well as titles for other lands that will be leased and a comprehensive understanding of the five factories’ assets.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, expressed confidence in the negotiating team led by Mr. Hill.
“Where they need to be strengthened, in one or two areas, we will work with that. But, I think the problem is not with the team, as is being suggested. The challenge is with the environment and the nature of the industry, and that’s what we need to deal with,” Dr. Tufton said.
The Sugar Enterprise Team, headed by Mr. Hill was established by the previous government in 2005, to start the divestment process by inviting investors interested in purchasing the government sugar assets,This followed government’s decision to transform the sugar industry, following the European Union’s decision to reform its sugar regime between 2005/6 and 2009/10, as well as the huge debt burden of the Sugar Company of Jamaica(SCJ), which manages the five government-owned sugar factories – Bernard Lodge, Frome, Trelawny, Monymusk, and St. Thomas.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding announced recently that Dr. Tufton will be looking at other private sector investors, who might be interested in all or parts of the assets. The Government has also assured sugar workers that the rest of their $2.7 billion redundancy package will be paid in due course.

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