Where is the report on the Albion ethanol plant?

Dear Editor,

What was the purpose of the investment in the Albion ethanol plant?

“[It appears] the Albion trial was to see how feasible it would be to make fuel grade ethanol from our molasses” (Tony Vieira, SN, Aug 11).  No report was published, so no one knows what, if anything, had been learned from the experiment. In fact, almost no one knew that an ethanol plant had been set up at Albion until Dr Ramsammy announced it at public meetings in New York. Also, it was Dr Ramsammy, the former Minister of Agriculture who told me the ethanol plant cost US$485,000 and was manufactured in Brazil.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel on how to make ethanol. Brazil already did that. Mr Sookram Persaud (SN, Aug. 9) mentioned a state-of-the-art plant in Brazil: you press a button you make sugar crystals; you press another button, you make ethanol.  Why was such a plant

not considered and purchased? Was the cost too high? Was it not suitable because of Guyana’s small-scale cane industry?

Mr Vieira pointed out that making ethanol directly from cane juice, as opposed to making sugar from cane juice (first step), then ethanol from sugar/molasses, stood the chance of maximizing output and profits. But this has never been tried. Why not?

It appears that under former CEO Rajendra Singh, GuySuCo never made a serious effort to save the cane industry by diversifying into the many byproducts of sugarcane.

Neither E B John (HR Director of GuySuCo) nor Rajendra Singh, is forthcoming with any information at all to help the public understand the real story of why the corporation was unable to pull off successful diversification and save the sugarcane industry. I call on Mr John again to release the report from those top GuySuCo officials who visited Brazil in 1988 to study ethanol production. It appears Guyana was ahead of the learning/action curve to diversify, but something happened to curtail the effort.

One thing is clear: there has never been a comprehensive study on how to make diversification work. One more observation: The US$200 million white elephant called SMP (Skeldon Modernization Plant) appears to be the last nail driven into the coffin of the cane industry.

All of these discussions today are for academic purposes only. GuySuCo is bankrupt; there is no money to invest in diversification. And there is no will or desire on the part of the government to save the cane industry.

Guyanese must now prepare for the effects of the shutdown of a major industry ‒ the collapse of the drainage systems and flooding of the coastlands as well as the consequences of blighting the coastal villages and higher levels of poverty, drugs and crime.

This is to say nothing about the retrenchment of 16,000 workers directly employed and the negative multiplier effects of closing a major industry.

Yours faithfully,

Mike Persaud

 

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