…does not rule out technical help
Presidential Candidate of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Donald Ramotar, has not ruled out technical overseas assistance for the troubled US$181M Skeldon factory, but insists that Guyana has the managerial capacity to handle the industry.
Questioned by reporters during a press conference yesterday on plans to hire foreign management and what happens if he is elected President, Ramotar made it clear that his administration would not be inclined to going back to an arrangement similar to the Booker Tate, which was managing the industry before being let go several months ago.
Regarding the announcement of Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is considering proposals from India and China to manage Skeldon and that GuySuCo may not have the capacity, Ramotar disagreed.
“I am not sure if his (Minister Persaud) assessment is totally correct about our capacity to manage Skeldon (factory).”
However, he opined that Skeldon would need to have technical assistance in some areas to settle a number of outstanding issues.
Defending the decision to invest that much money in the factory, Ramotar who sits on the non-executive board of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), pointed out that it was an issue that could be defended anywhere with Europe slashing the price, among other critical issues.
The current problems facing Skeldon is another issue.
“I think it is settling down. I have no doubts that with all the problems…Skeldon will eventually prove its worth…”
With respect to whether he would be willing to plug more money into the factory under his “administration”, Ramotar does not believe that much will have to be done since heavy investments have already been made into the fields and re-adjusting them for the usage of mechanized harvesters.
New and existing farmers are also doing the same.
The direction may lie in further improving the agricultural side of the Skeldon operations, Ramotar said.
Since its commissioning, the factory has not been operating as expected with one boiler experiencing problems and GuySuCo even reportedly holding out monies from the contractor, China National Technical Import and Export Corporation (CNTIC), so that outstanding defects could be settled.
There have been complaints also over efficiency, with some farmers saying that it took as much as 25 tonnes of cane to make one tonne of sugar, a highly uneconomical state of affairs.
However, Ramotar yesterday said that factory has been using on average 12-13 tonnes of cane to convert to one tonne of sugar.
Guyana has revised its sugar target from 300,000 tonnes to just over 282,000 tonnes. Last year, the industry was at its worst in almost two decades with just 220,000 tonnes of sugar.
Government has said that the industry will be able to end its losing streak if it breaks the elusive 300,000 tonnes.
But a low worker turnout has been the main challenge.
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