Samuda and Chinese to hold Monymusk talks today
Agriculture Min-ister Karl Samuda and representatives from his ministry will hold a teleconference with the principals of COMPLANT, the parent company of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC), to discuss the future of the Chinese manufacturers in Jamaica.
"Yes, the arrangement is in place for the discussion to finally take place tomorrow," a reliable source at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries told The Gleaner yesterday. "Key on the agenda is the future of Monymusk and how much of the money used by the Government will be recovered."
In a recent interview with The Gleaner, Samuda expressed frustration about the difficulty of getting the directors of PCSC to have a formal discussion on the issues surrounding the Clarendon-based facility and to get an undertaking that they are willing to offset the cost of operating Monymusk Sugar Factory for the next crop year (2017-2018).
In his Budget presentation earlier this year, Samuda revealed that it was costing the Government $250 million to manage the facility, which, if closed, would see more than 800 individuals out of work and result in a virtual collapse of the economy of Lionel Town and other villages along the Vere plains. For this season, Monymusk began production on March 7, and, after 143 crop days, has produced 10,747 tonnes of sugar from 153,934 tonnes of cane.
NOT BEING EVASIVE
The Government was forced to operate the factory after the Chinese decided to shutter operations for this crop year and concentrate on their 60-tonne facility at Frome in Westmoreland. They recently approached SCJ Holdings to operate Monymusk for another year.
The Chinese invested more than US$260 million to renovate the factories and fields at Frome and Monymusk after becoming Jamaica's largest sugar manufacturer following its US$9-million divestment deal with the Government. However, it took a $7.3-billion hit to its bottom line by 2015, mainly because of a $5.5-billion impairment loss at Monymusk.
According to Liu Chaoyu, chief executive officer of Pan Caribbean, her bosses were not being evasive as was being intimated by Samuda in expressing his frustration about not being able to arrange a meeting with the directors of PCSC.
"It takes a bit more to arrange meetings for dignitaries and government officials," said Liu .
Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, also wants to get a clear picture of what the Chinese are planning.
"Pan Caribbean needs to put everything on the table. We need to know what is happening," said Rickards. "This does not only affect Monymusk. It is affecting the entire sugar industry. They should either cook or get out of the kitchen."