Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy yesterday assured that the Enmore Packaging Plant has overcome start-up problems, although production at the facility is still well below capacity at 10,000 tonnes of sugar with just over two months remaining for the year.
During a tour of the East Coast Demerara facility yesterday afternoon, Ramsammy said that the factory has moved past the teething problems it had experienced after its commissioning in May, 2011.
He said that Surendra Engineering, the Indian company that built the factory, has completed its contract with the Guyana Sugar Corpora-tion (GuySuCo) since the defects liability period in theagreement between the two parties came to an end last month.
Ramsammy added that he had been assured by GuySuCo that the plant is working up to scratch. ”There were problems like any factory… you will see that at new sugar factory, packaging plants… it takes up to five to eight years to reach its capacity… so it shouldn’t shock anybody,” Ramsammy said.
The factory achieved ISO certification last year and an audit was done recently to ensure that the weight and batch codes are intact. Sugar is also packaged at the Blairmont factory in Berbice.
Ramsammy told the media that the Enmore plant is working to expectations, adding that the plant was designed to produce approximately 40,000 tonnes annually. According to him, it can be expanded to double that amount and the machinery is at the facility for further expansion. He said, however, that when it was constructed it was never stated that it would package sugar at its full capacity. Packaging amounts near to 40,000 tonnes would require improved sugar output by GuySuCo.
Ramsammy explained that the excess sugar after the company’s bulk obligations is sent for packaging at the Enmore facility, noting that there are also contractual arrangements for packaged sugar, most of which goes to the Caricom market.
Ramsammy said that when the factory started to operate in 2011, sugar was actually being packaged at the end of the second crop for that year, adding that approximately 3,000 tonnes of sugar was packaged at the time.
He said that, interestingly, the plant’s labour force is dominated by women. ”I suspect that some of the higher level jobs will be taken over by the females,” he added.
As regards labour shortfalls, the minister stated that this remains one of the greatest constraints of the industry as well as other sectors. He said that on Thursday morning he met with cash crop farmers who complained of labour problems and he noted that rice farmers have voiced similar concerns. He said that the contracting firms across the country are also experiencing problems sourcing persons to fill labour positions within their companies.
Ramsammy posited that for the technical jobs, there are over 3,000 excavators operating in the hinterland for mining purposes and because of the high salaries there, there is a migration of technically skilled persons there.
“It means therefore that the mechanisation of the industry is an imperative…Enmore is already at about 62% where the fields and all of its operations are done mechanically,” he noted, adding that works are being undertaken to construct two mechanical cane harvesters for the factory. Two functions of the two pieces of equipment are equivalent to the work of 120 workers. He noted too that a dumper worth US$1M is being sourced for the factory and will replace aspects of the factory currently in operation. The foundation works are currently being laid for the equipment.
Meanwhile, GuySuCo is currently exporting a new brand of sugar called “Demerara Brown,” a fine quality packaged twin to the “Demerara Gold” brand. The new packaged product is expected to hit the local market soon, as the corporation continues to employ innovative methods to add value to its products.
According to Ramsammy, the product is well received in the neighbouring Twin-Island Republic.
The Enmore packaging plant, which was built at a cost of US$12.5M, was unveiled in 2011 by the then Jagdeo administration as a major boost to the sugar industry which has been struggling with production and finances in the past few years.
The corporation has been hit by numerous periods of industrial action, mainly on the East Demerara Estates and moves have been made to cushion the effects of such actions by mechanisation. A shortage of cane harvesters, many of whom have turned to other forms of employment as well as wet weather patterns have also impacted negatively on the industry.