Green light for sugar factor financing
Cabinet has approved financing for the much discussed multipurpose sugar factory and has signalled its intention to become a major player in the supply of sugar to the regional market.
Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick confirmed last night that Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the financing at its January 8 meeting, with funds being provided by the Trinidad and Tobago-based Ansa Merchant Bank.
Reports indicated that the bank was providing $60 million in financing for disbursement to the farmers to increase cane production and to satisfy the start-up operations of the proposed multi-purpose factory at Andrews, in time for the 2017 crop season.
Estwick said stakeholders would be updated on the status of the arrangement on Wednesday.
“We are now finalizing the funding for the field side . . . which means I am hoping to have a meeting on Wednesday where I can now lay out . . . the way forward for sustaining the agriculture sector, both on the sugar side and the non-sugar side,” he told a St James South branch meeting of the ruling Democratic Labour Party.
“I’ll be holding a meeting with all the players and I’ll be bringing in all the stakeholders and giving them a clear indication as to how we’ll be taking that sector forward over the next five to ten years and settle that sector down.”
The state-of-the-art sugar factory is part of the Cane Industry Restructuring Project which has a projected cost of US$250 million.
Phase one would focus on the production of high-end direct consumption sugar, sugar for export, bulk sugar for domestic consumption, high-end sugar for the rum industry, and 25 megawatts of electricity for the national grid.
In phase two, attention would turn to the production of biomedical products. In that regard, the minister challenged young scientists to work with Government to create value-added products from sugar cane.
Estwick maintained his previously announced position that 2015 would be the final year for selling bulk sugar to Europe due to its unprofitability.
Rather, he said, the focus would shift to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) market, where he estimated states import close to $1 billion in sugar from outside the region.
“We need to shift the marketing strategy away from a losing export position to a regional positive position and the second variable of that is that all the value added products, that is our market,” Estwick said, while promising to challenge CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development where necessary.