Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Jamaican firm claims conspiracy stalling Monymusk proposal

Published:Monday | August 26, 2019 | 12:24 AM
A state-of-the-art cane harvester in operation at Monymusk Sugar Factory, in Lionel Town, Clarendon.
Allan Rickards, president of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association.
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Jamaican firm Yallahs International Inc (Yii) is accusing the Government and private entities associated with the local sugar industry of using underhanded tactics to frustrate their attempt to acquire the Monymusk Sugar Factory in Clarendon.

According to Yii, its proposal for a state-of-the-art bio-energy and agrochemical manufacturing operation at the Lionel Town- based factory was approved for further discussion by the Cabinet, but after almost two years, little or no progress has been made.

“So far, our quest to be included in the discussion for the transformation of the sugar-cane industry has been met with obfuscation, unnecessary delays, power plays, and a blatant pedestrian response,” said Anthony James, CEO of Yii, in a 28-page summary of their proposal, sent to The Gleaner.

“Our initial meeting with JAMPRO took three months … to be initiated and consequent stops and starts with lengthy blackout time with no reason for the delay.”

Yii expressed an interest in the problematic property in 2017 after Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) repeatedly expressed its desire to offload the facility, which the Chinese firm blamed for its poor returns in 2015.

QUIETLY CONFIDENT

At the time, James was quietly confident of an agreement and subsequent start of the 2018-2019 crop year to start operating but now believes that other factors could be working against their progress, including their decision to discuss their project with the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA), which also had an interest in operating Monymusk.

In its assessment, Yii said the Allan Rickards-led farmers’ group lacked the vision or the ability to conceptualise a plan to improve the financial and overall long-term viability of the industry.

“Their response, at best, has been tepid and could be classified as conspiratorial by them making an offer to the Government to manage Monymusk for a year after looking at Yii’s proposal,” continued James, the primary author of the document.

“The question or risk, therefore, is whether they have the capability or capacity to convince the farmer to stay in the business of growing sugar cane or take their business elsewhere.”

“Yallahs as an organisation or investor knows that we have the solution for the sugar cane industry’s problems,” said James, who is making his second bid to get into the sugar market after losing a bid to purchase Long Pond Estate in the early 1990s to British firm Tate & Lyle.

“We will not stop until our plan is properly and comprehensively evaluated despite the poor response by the various government agencies.”

Rickards: We’ll work with anyone who makes sugar operation viable

Allan Rickards, president of the All-Island Jamaica Cane (AIJCFA) Farmers Association, is rubbishing suggestions that the association was seeking to compete with Yallahs International Inc for the right to run the Monymusk Sugar Factory, pointing out that his group willingly shared all relevant information on its knowledge of the industry, the factory, and the cane-farming aspect of the Lionel Town, Clarendon, operation.

“Their comments about our management lacking vision are unfortunate since we shared possible directions with them in good faith as their own concepts seemed to be an admix of outdated information and untried concepts,” Rickards told The Gleaner.

“I need to point out that we have only ever seen two persons ... their attorney and one other individual.”

He added: “As we assured the minister, the AIJCFA had only one goal ... to ensure a viable sugar operation in Clarendon ... and towards this end, we would work with any entity in helping to ensure the supply of sugar cane necessary for such an operation.”

Said Rickards: “What we will definitely not be a party to is another ‘false start’ in the operation of the Monymusk Factory. We will work with the ministry and its agencies to ensure that we get it right this time.”