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Pan Caribbean aims at 28,000 tonnes of sugar for 2016-2017

Published:Thursday | December 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
The Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland.

Western Bureau:

Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) will be placing its primary focus on the Frome Sugar Estate in Westmoreland for the 2016-17 crop year and is targeting an output of 28,000 tonnes of sugar. It produced just about the same amount last year (27,507 tonnes), which was the lowest output in its more than 100-year history.

The Chinese-owned firm will kick-off operations at Frome on December 12. However, the situation at its other factory, the Monymusk Sugar Factory in Clarendon, remains somewhat uncertain as the Chinese are still viewing joint-venture partners to run that facility.

"The intention is to continue running Frome," said Delroy Armstrong, senior adviser to Hong Han, chairman and CEO of PCSC. "There is no adverse position where Frome is concerned, but the decision has been taken that they are not putting any money into Monymusk. All the focus is on Frome."

The PCSC has suffered losses of more than $10 billion in the past three years between both facilities, with its Clarendon-based operation being responsible for a huge chunk of that amount. The firm has blamed its loss-making performance on depressed sugar prices, oversupply, and increased cane price.

The company spent more than US$100 million to create greater efficiency at Frome, an exercise that Armstrong claims resulted in the reconfiguration of the facility from 100,000 tonnes capacity to 600,000 tonnes, including a new 10-megawatt turbine, which uses bagasse to produce electricity.

"Frome was reconfigured to handle some 600,000 tonnes of cane, which they projected would produce about 60,000 tonnes of the sweetener (sugar)," Armstrong told The Gleaner. "Yet, the only way we can maximise this capacity is, there would have to be a huge increase and constant supply in raw material."

 

ILLICIT CANE FIRES

 

The biggest challenge to a productive year at Frome is the perennial problem of illicit cane fires, and the company's point man believes that the residents can play a greater role in confronting the problem.

"We are hopeful that the residents are beginning to appreciate the importance of the factory to their communities and that the illicit burning of cane does not help our efforts," said Armstrong. "Apart from moral persuasion, there is not much more that we can do to get all stakeholders to understand the importance of these fires being reduced.

"We have tried. We have had numerous discussions, and a committee was put in place, but nothing came from it," added Armstrong.

The Government has sought to encourage more private suppliers to start selling electricity to the national grid, but even though the facility is now in place at Frome and talks have been ongoing among PCSC, the Jamaica Public Service, and the regulatory bodies for several years, there is still no indication when the factory will be able to generate additional revenue from that source.