Skeldon factory registers highest output since inception

-though still far below expected capacity

The beleaguered US$110M-plus Skeldon factory has recorded its highest ever annual production since its commissioning in 2009, producing 39,153 tonnes of sugar so far.

Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) , Errol Hanoman, told Stabroek News on Tuesday that the Skeldon estate has also surpassed its second crop target of 30,594 and continues to boil which is likely to increase the current 30,932 tonnes by a few more tonnes. Though this year’s production is the highest, it is a far cry from the estimated 110,000 to 117,000 tonnes this factory was rated to produce each year. Skeldon’s cost of production is also said to be much higher than the other estates and is likely producing at a significant loss.

For the first crop of 2015, Skeldon produced 8,221 tonnes of sugar, a far cry from the 17,214-tonne target.

Of Skeldon’s performance, Hanoman said that ongoing rehabilitation efforts at the factory have yielded greater success along with contributions by workers and good weather.

He spoke about worker contributions across the board, expressing his satisfaction that the sugar company was able to surpass its annual target, which has not been done for the past 11 years. The CEO told Stabroek News that the production figures that the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of GuySuCo was working with were the revised figures which he said were already in play when the IMC took over after former CEO Rajendra Singh was dismissed in June.

Hanoman said that when he assumed his position he was aware that the working second crop target was set at 146,300 tonnes of sugar. The first crop target was 86,201 and GuySuCo managed to produce just 81,194 tonnes, approximately 5,000 tonnes below the target.

Former Minister of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy in January stated that the 2015 annual production target was set at 240,000 tonnes. Later on, GuySuCo with Singh at the helm stated that the figure was 241,503 tonnes.

When directly asked about the changes made to the annual target from the beginning of the year to the 227,443 target that was revealed by the sugar company in May, Hanoman told Stabroek News that changes to the target were made prior to the IMC. As of Monday, GuySuCo has produced 227,743 tonnes of sugar, surpassing the revised target by 300 tonnes. He reiterated to Stabroek News that he was optimistic that a second crop 150,000-tonne production was possible and that the annual production could surpass 230,000. The 230,000 tonnes production level would still not amount to what the original 2015 production target would have been as laid out by GuySuCo at the commencement of the crop and is far below production in good years.

Three estates—Albion, Rose Hall, and Enmore—are expected to continue operations until December 21.

Hanoman said that the out-of-crop season will not be a quiet one for the factories especially at Skeldon, noting that the retubing of boilers will need to be done among other work. Hanoman told Stabroek News that the factory itself has been under stress in the years prior and the wet conditions have caused mud and trash to accumulate which has “seriously aggravated the wear and tear of the plant.”

Speaking briefing about the ongoing efforts to re-acquire the Skeldon co-generation plant which was sold to the special interest company, Skeldon Electricity Inc (SEI), a subsidiary of the Guyana Power and Light Inc, earlier in the year for US$30M facilitated through the government holding company, NICIL, Hanoman said that GuySuCo has expressed it desire to the government. He noted that since the sale of the co-generation plant was made at the cabinet level of the former administration, the decision to have GuySuCo re-acquire its asset would also need to be made at cabinet level.

Although SEI could be dissolved as its main function was to acquire the co-generation plant there has been no move as yet to reverse the deal.

Hanoman said that any changes being made will need to stem from recommendations in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Sugar Industry which is yet to be pronounced upon fully by cabinet.

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