Bhim focusing on ramped up cane growth

-independent opinion needed on exploded boiler

Chief Executive Officer (ag) of GuySuCo Paul Bhim has set cane cultivation high on his agenda, saying an adequate supply is what the industry needs to bounce back from a tough period, but he also pointed to other critical strategies as the corporation pushes to increase output.

Paul Bhim

The focus of the industry is the same, Bhim said, indicating that he intends to follow the same approach of former CEO Errol Hanoman. “Nothing is different, the same strategies he was pursuing I am taking on now and the focus is on having an adequate cane supply when the second crop begins later this month,” he stated.

The corporation has increased its focus on land expansion, planting and tillage within the past year, according to Bhim, who said it is likely to result in a bumper harvest at the end of the second crop.

The poor first crop numbers were reflective of minimal rehabilitation work being done in the early period of last year in addition to arid El Nino conditions, Bhim noted.
But even with an adequate supply the problems affecting Skeldon continue to impact on production; output has been low and the target of 280,000 tonnes for this year is looking more difficult. Bhim told Stabroek News in an interview yesterday that he is aware of the problems at the factory as well as the fact that the industry needs to get production up.

Bhim said frankly that the factory has problems; defects which he said technicians have been working on continuously to correct.

The major defects are likely to be remedied before the second crop begins later this month, he noted, adding that the Chinese technicians are currently ahead of schedule. The recent boiler damage at the factory is still under investigation.

Since the boiler was damaged nothing conclusive has been reported, according to him. Bhim said the corporation is still to determine what happened. “We need an independent opinion and that is what we are going to receive shortly”, he said, disclosing that GuySuCo will benefit from the advice of experts over the next few weeks to make a real assessment of the damage at the boiler, but more importantly, a real assessment of what happened at the boiler.

Bhim said it is possible there was a minor explosion at the boiler on the day it was damaged. He noted that the reports of a major explosion might have been exaggerated. However, he did say that a wall close to the boiler was damaged as a result, but insisted the wall did not collapse.

Skeldon, which is GuySuCo’s flagship factory, has not operated at full capacity since being commissioned close to a year now. Bhim is of the opinion that things are slowly turning around and he called the industry’s blueprint for success a “good plan”. He said the plan only needs effective implementation and “the industry will progress”.

Bhim said the industry has faced a number of challenges, but he stressed that GuySuCo has re-tooled and will start to record positive results within the coming months.
He said that the cane supply is critical to production which is why the focus has been on cultivation. According to him, the industry is rapidly moving in the direction of mechanized harvesting.

Bhim said increased mechanization is a major part of the strategy and he pointed to Skeldon saying it was premised on exactly this policy.
He contended that mechanization is not intended to hurt the workforce, adding that the unions also support mechanization.
He added that GuySuCo is losing workers despite the pace at which its mechanization programme is moving.

When asked to comment on the concerns raised by the unions about low wages affecting morale, Bhim said GuySuCo is committed to good industrial relations. However, he said the corporation would be better positioned to offer more attractive wages if output is improved, noting that production is also dependent on the workforce.

Since his appointment as acting CEO Bhim has met with the unions and also had discussions with workers during a pre-crop briefing where “no major concerns were raised at this time”. He noted that the workers said nothing untoward about their relationship with the corporation.

According to him, the first crop went smoothly so “we are hoping there are no industrial relations problems for the second crop”.
Bhim is confident that GuySuCo is on track to achieve the production target set for this year despite having to produce over 190,000 tonnes for the second crop. He said the amount of work that has since been completed in the fields indicates the corporation is moving into a solid year in 2011.
“The first crop numbers next year could be big because of the level of work we are doing,” he noted.

Bhim said he has witnessed some of the more difficult periods the industry faced and insisted that “things are going to change.” The future of the industry is looking good, he added.

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