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Local Chinese investors eyeing Cuban expansion

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer


CHINESE FIRM Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC), the owners of Frome, Bernard Lodge and Monymusk sugar estates, is said to be in discussions with the Cuban government with a view to purchasing a sugar facility in that country.

According to a well-placed Gleaner source, a delegation from the Jamaica-based entity, which acquired the local sugar factories in a divestment deal with the Jamaican Government, visited the Spanish-speaking Caribbean island recently and had discussions with representatives of the Raul Castro-led government.

However, while admitting that the trip did take place, PCSC head Francis He declined to give details on what was discussed during the talks in Cuba.

"This is commercial secret for my company. I cannot give you details," He told The Gleaner last week. "I will say, yes we were in Cuba, and I can say we have initiated talks with the Cuban authorities, but there is nothing more to say yet."

PCSC is a subsidiary of COMPLANT International, which purchased the three Jamaican factories for US$9 million in 2010. The Chinese also committed investments of US$156 million to renovate the factories and sugar-cane lands in the first phase of the divestment process.

But even as it is plans to spread its wings into Cuba, the PCSC is lamenting the high cost of energy and labour in Jamaica as well as the level of alleged corruption in the local sugar sector. The company has stated that it hopes to become the top sugar producer in the region by 2015.

"Cuba is not a part of our Caribbean group," said Karl James, chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean and general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales. "But it is welcome news of anyone who has an interest in investing in the Cuban sugar industry as this augurs well for that country and the region."

"The Chinese are seeking to expand and that is what is expected of any investor seeking to make the most of opportunities, and the region stands to benefit," added James.