Government has received the first of three new molasses storage tanks being built by Preconco Ltd.

The tanks will replace three ageing ones at a cost of approximately BDS$20 million. The project which commenced in January, 2013, is a private public partnership agreement between Preconco Ltd and Government.

During a handing over ceremony this morning at Port Road, The City, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, said the construction of the tanks would resolve the issue of proper storage of molasses so that Government could deal with other issues facing the local rum industry.

??????Most of us would have heard about the challenges the rum industry now faces with respect to subsidies and so on. In respect to the United States producing rum, one of the things that they would not want to face is the lack of capacity in the storing of molasses in Barbados because that would grind the industry to a halt.

???At least for now, that issue would be resolved once these three tanks are in place and we would be moving with great haste to try to resolve the bigger issues, regarding broader negotiations with regards to the United States government,??? he stated. The three tanks have a combined storage capacity of 30,000 tonnes.

Dr. Estwick pointed out that his Ministry was well on the way towards achieving the four goals it had been set, when he became Minister of Agriculture in 2010, within a two-year time period.

???We were to get the new Barbados Water Authority building up and running and the fourth story is now being built; the second responsibility was to establish a new tractor cultivation scheme, and that is in operation; the third responsibility was to establish the New Castle water catchment area, that is in place; and the fourth responsibility was to get a new set of molasses tanks storage facilities in place [because] the previous tanks were constructed with steel.

???The first tank???was in such a deplorable state that it was unserviceable based on all of the technical data. And, based on all of the inductive reasons, if all three tanks are built of steel, they hold the same corrosive material and they are in the same environment. If [tank] one is unserviceable you would have to assume that [tanks] two and three are also unserviceable,??? he explained.

The Agriculture Minister added that the private public sector partnership was being done on a ???design, build, finance and lease option???. The reason for this, he noted, was that the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) was ???technically bankrupt and, therefore, could not go on its own volition to the banks and borrow money???.

???So Preconco would finance the tanks and construct the tanks so it???s a true design build construction programme, and we would be paying approximately $2 million on an annual basis over the life of the lease arrangement which would give them enough time to be able to manage all of the financial risk and deal with profits. So we believe that the BAMC took the right decision in the interest of stabilising the industry and in the interest of making sure that the storage facility would be here to last for many, many years,??? Dr. Estwick surmised.

Managing Director of Preconco Ltd, Mark Molloney, said his company was ???getting ready to demolish the second tank in another week???. The completion date is estimated to be June, this year while the third is expected to be completed at the beginning of 2015. He added that the tanks would be maintained ???for life??? under the lease agreement.

Author: Melissa Rollock/Aisha Reid

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