Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
When the 2013-2014 sugar crop begins in December, a new man will be at the helm of the Chinese-owned Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC), as Huaixiang Wu has replaced Francis He as CEO.
Wu's tour of duty started on June 1 and, according to local stakeholders, they are hoping the change in leadership will result in a more cordial relationship between the Chinese and the other players in the sector.
"We will know soon what he has to offer, but he has already indicated that the industry is too small to be fragmented," said Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS). "So we could be in for some interesting times."
The Chinese firm is a subsidiary of COMPLANT International, which purchased Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge sugar estates for US$9 million in the 2010 government-divestment exercise.
The Chinese invested an estimated US$156 million to renovate the factories they bought. In addition, substantial work was done to improve sugar production in the various cane belts under their control.
However, despite its massive investment, it has not been all smooth sailing for the PCSC, as it had to endure a tumultuous relationship with the locals under the previous management.
Under He, PCSC pulled out of the pre-divestment arrangement, where all the factories pooled their products. The company was eventually conferred with agent status, allowing it to market its own sugar.
In addition, cane farmers have not been happy with several decisions made by Wu's predecessor, blasting the company's business practices, which divert from traditional commercial arrangements.
OPPORTUNITY TO START AFRESH
"It is an opportunity to start afresh," Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, told The Gleaner yesterday.
"Some of the arrangements that were discontinued, such as the credit facility for farmers to purchase fertiliser, will seriously impact the start of the new crop year," added Rickards.
Wu comes with several years of experience, having held several managerial positions in the food industry throughout Europe and Asia.
At the close of the 2012-2013 crop year, PCSC once again fell short of its target, churning out 55,201 tonnes at its two producing facilities.