Husseys aiming for the top in sugar
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Despite AN impeccable track record as one of the leading families in business in Jamaica, very few persons gave the Hussey family-owned Everglades Farms Limited a chance in its bid to turn around the fortunes of the Long Pond Sugar Factory in Trelawny.
However, following a multi-million dollar retrofitting exercise at the sugar factory, Andrew Hussey, chief executive officer, is expressing confidence that the Everglades Farms will soon become the top producer of sugar in Jamaica.
"Our focus is to be number one in the business, so at the beginning of each crop, we start to look on the issues affecting our conversion so we can prepare for the next crop and improve on each production," Hussey said in a recent interview with The Gleaner.
"Our concern is to identify the constraints in our operation that are preventing us from being number one in Jamaica."
The Husseys' track record of successful business ventures include the 5.5-acre Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel along Waterloo Road in St Andrew, a rum distillery at the Hampden Sugar Estate property in Trelawny, Discount Centre and Liguanea Lane Pharmacy, Super Cleaners Laundry Services, and their high-profile role as a prominent player in local stud farming and race-horse training.
Having acquired the Long Pond Sugar Factory in a 2010 divestment deal with the Government, the Husseys were forced to sit out the 2010-2011 crop year after a disastrous start to their first year as a sugar manufacturer. In the following year, they churned out a mere 1,400 tonnes of sugar, easily the worst output in the history of the Clark's Town, Trelawny-based factory.
Determined to maximise on the 20-tonne capacity of the facility, the family invested approximately $2 billion into bringing it up to international standards. Through the input of some of the top quality-assurance experts and technologists from around the world, there have been significant improvements in the factory's time efficiency and recovery index.
"We have been fully engrossed in getting all the things in place that prevent us from reaching the top of the pile, and one crucial aspect is our cane-planting expansion programme," Hussey explained to The Gleaner.
"At present, there is a combined 160 tonnes of cane available to the factory from the estate and farmers (74,000 tonnes), and assuming that we bring in 95 per cent of that amount, we should be producing about 15,000 tonnes for the current crop," he said.
Hussey's confidence is supported by his company's performance over the past two crops. In 2012-2013, Everglades was selected as the most improved sugar factory in Jamaica for superior quality. And they almost doubled their output with a remarkable 11,230 tonnes of sugar from 123.269 tonnes of cane. In the previous year, the factory had produced 6,500 tonnes of sugar.
With the cost of energy having a major impact on operations, Hussey said they are now looking at ways to be more cost-effective in their use of imported oil.
"We still intend to get off the national grid, which is a significant contributor to our operation costing … but we have to first establish a constantly efficient operation in order to increase our tonnage as we draw near to 2017, when there will be more competition for the supply markets," said Hussey. "The goal for next crop is to be using no imported oil, because if we can use less imported oil, whether it is by JPS (the Jamaica Public Service Company) or a generator, then that's the way to go."
According to the deal penned with the Government, which covers the Long Pond and Hampden factories and 40 hectares of land, plus an additional 7,100 hectares, which they leased at a rate of US$40 per hectare per annum, Everglades must maintain 60 per cent of the leased lands for sugar-cane production or related products for 15 years.
Everglades business model received a significant boost late last year when they received their licences from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), which allows them to operate tours of their great houses and sugar cane mills to tourists and locals. Plans are in the works for a rum museum at Hampden, while the sugar cane museum, which is being established in Clark's Town, is at an advanced stage.
"It's a major milestone for us," said Hussey, in reference to the TPDCo licences. "This license was key to our plans because it opens the door for us to talk to tour operators and get the business going on the right footing."