|Agriculture Minister,??Dr. David??Estwick (centre) at??yesterday’s meeting with ministry officials, representatives of ??Japanese Company Marubeni Coporation and Engineering Consultants, Bosch Projects. (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, has urged independent cane growers to be patient as Government works towards securing funding for the Cane Industry Restructuring Project (CIRP) which will cost US$230 million to execute.
The wheels for financing the project were set in motion yesterday when the Minister met with representatives from the Japanese company Marubeni Corporation, one of the largest trading companies in Japan and engineering consultants Bosch Projects, at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters.
The Barbados Cane Industry Corporation (BCIC) has been tasked with overseeing and implementing the CIRP, which will be done in two phases – the field aspect i.e., the agronomic and agricultural side to reverse the significant decline in sugar cane yields and the second phase – the upgrade of the Andrews Sugar Factory and the establishment of a co-generation facility.
Dr. Estwick told those in attendance that the meeting was held to find the best financial option for the project. He added that Cabinet had given the BCIC a mandate "a year-and-a-half ago" to look at designing a project that would rescue the ailing sugar industry from one that simply produced sugar to one with "high value added products".
Those products include the sale of electricity into the national grid; the production of ???A’ strike and ???B’ strike molasses; the production of specialty sugars for the export market as well as the production of sugars and molasses syrups for the domestic and regional markets. He said he intended to do away with exports to the European Union (EU) because it made "no sense" to sell sugar at a massive loss to the EU which has been the case since the removal of the preferential price for sugar and quota to Europe, which was replaced by a reciprocal system.
Additionally, the Minister disclosed that a project was currently being evaluated by the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL) for the production of alcohol for use in the automotive industry. He said the West Indies Rum Distilleries Limited and the BNOCL were looking at the production of seven million litres of alcohol as a substitute for an additive known as MBTE which was currently being added to gasoline in Trinidad as an octane booster.
"We are confident that these value added products would be able to produce an industry that is profitable. Whether you happen to be a cane cutter, lorry driver or loader or whether you own a plantation, we want you to stay the course with us. Many of the plantations would have lost a significant amount of money and would’ve carried forward significant debt over the years. I would want to ask them to stay with us through this difficult period.
"The responsibility for the sugar industry was transferred to me in June 2011, and I believe we have made some good progress in two years, where we are confident that we can secure the necessary funding to execute the two particular phases of the mandate given by Cabinet. So, this discussion is to look at the variables involved in executing that mandate and to see how we can work very closely with our friends from Japan through the Marubeni Corporation," Dr. Estwick emphasised.
Marubeni Corporation and BOSCH Projects have embarked on similar projects in other countries such as the multi-million dollar sugar and ethanol factory in Angola, Africa which, when completed will be the largest factory of its kind in that country with a capacity to produce 20,000 tonnes of canes per day.