Skeldon production dismal

…even as corporation on verge of making first crop target

The Skeldon factory has produced just over 9,000 tonnes of its 14,000-tonne first crop sugar target even as the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is on the verge of attaining its 2014 first crop target.

The factory’s poor performance juxtaposed to what was the originally promised—110,000 tonnes annually when the factory was commissioned in 2009—paints a very disturbing picture, analysts say.

What makes the situation all the more alarming, according to critics and industry insiders, is that Skeldon’s low production figures come after millions were invested in its rehabilitation. GuySuCo is adamant that work by South African firm Bosch Engineering to repair the beleaguered Skeldon factory cost US$1.8M and not US$30 million as was reported by Stabroek News in its March 9, 2014 edition and originally on August 18, 2013.

The cost of the work aside, the fact remains that after additional money was invested into the factory, production only increased by 3,000 tonnes during the first crop, when 2013 and 2014 are compared.

While Skeldon is producing at a better rate than in 2013, which saw just over 6,000 tonnes of sugar during the first crop, the factory’s inability to live up to expectations leaves GuySuCo with a lot to explain.

Additional rehabilitation work was to be finished, but there has been no word from the state-owned corporation as to if this was indeed the case. Stabroek News was made to understand that representatives from Bosch were in Guyana in February, reviewing the six projects they were hired to complete. This publication was told that Bosch had not finished work on the bagasse plough and that one of the primary conveyers was still malfunctioning.

May marks over a year since the Agriculture Ministry promised that the rehabilitation would be competed on six sections, including the condensate tank, bagasse scratcher, and pipe support, one of the conveyor belts, the installation of a super heater and upgrading of the heavy duty knives used to crush cane.

GuySuCo’s first crop production to date is over 70,000 tonnes while the first crop target is set at 75,000 tonnes. With Skeldon having produced just over 9,000 tonnes, it is obvious that the corporation’s ageing factories are leading in production.

Last year, GuySuCo had the worst first crop figure in the industry’s existence: 48,000 tonnes; and the second lowest annual sugar production in 22 years: 186,000 tonnes.

The sugar industry’s poor production figures saw that the 2014 target being adjusted just six months after the 2013-2017 Strategic Plan was made public.

This year’s production target was revised from 278,752 to 216,000 tonnes at the beginning of 2014. Many critics have stated that this lack of insight is disturbing, and proof that those in charge have no real idea how to manage an effective turnaround of the industry.

When Stabroek News did a mid-first crop check, GuySuCo’s sugar production was at 44,000 tonnes with the good weather allowing for weekly production averages of over 6,000 tonnes of sugar. Currently, the state-of-the-art Skeldon factory’s production is less than 12% of total production figures when it should be 20%.

Traditionally, GuySuCo has aimed to complete the first crop in May and Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy had said he hoped the weather would allow for harvesting until the end of May.

During his budget address, Ramsammy had promised to update the National Assembly with quarterly reports on Guy-SuCo’s progress. Critics are eager to see what the minister will have to say when parliament reconvenes.

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