Photos by Dhanash Ramroop
Grinding has resumed at the Enmore Sugar Estate factory in a bid to make use of cane in the fields and to attract prospective investors.
Now under the control of the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) of government holding company, NICIL, 23,000 tonnes of cane is being targeted.
The factory is now expected to perform at about 40 to 45 per cent greater efficiency following heavy maintenance works, a representative of the SPU says. Grinding of cane recommenced on Tuesday night.
The factory was closed in December last year after the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), shuttered the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon estates in preparation for their divestment.
When Stabroek News visited the estate yesterday afternoon it was bustling with activity, an unfamiliar sight since the New Year began.
According to a representative of the SPU, who is stationed at Enmore, they are looking to grind some 23,000 tonnes of cane, and it has been “very successful,” since the operations began on Tuesday night.
“The machinery, I would say, from what the factory was performing at when it closed in December and prior, I would say it is at least 40-45% more efficient,” the representative observed.
He explained that the improved performance is due to the heavy maintenance works which were carried out on all parts of the factory after the SPU took the helm. While he could not provide a figure of how much had been spent on the factory’s maintenance works, he stated that “throughout the entire factory, from the punt dumper to the processing house, to the boilers, had some major works being done.”
The SPU official said that no stone was left unturned and work was executed from the smallest piece of equipment, such as the chainsaws, to the larger, more complicated parts of the factory, such as the boilers, where the most extensive work was performed, and which should now function as if they were new.
“…They had some major works being done on each part of the plant, each equipment, each pump, each turbine, and the boilers have been done over and they are now working very, very efficiently and currently blowing a lot of steam and heat. All turbines and mills were opened, knives had to be sharpened and all these things,” the source said, while indicating that the highlight of the maintenance works was the reaction of the workers.
“When I came here they had leaks all over here,” he said, while conducting a tour of the power house. However, according to the man, there are no longer any leaks and other minor issues which marred the performance of the factory. Those little issues, he said, are what caused the industry to fall into the poor state it was in before the closure.
“They operated under those circumstances and never lifted a finger to fix it. NICIL is ensuring that the factory is up to par and working well before the big momentum,” the representative said. He explained that the comprehensive maintenance works and revival of the factory were done in preparation for the interested investors. In his opinion if the factory is working efficiently then it will be better received by the potential buyers, rather than leaving it down and not working, where it will be exposed to the elements which would lead to its deterioration.
According to the source, there are about two to three weeks of grinding left and following that, they will be preparing the fields for the second sugar crop, and then “it’s all cylinders on blast.” Currently, the sugar entity has over 100 contracted employees, some of whom were brought back following their severance from the estate last December. In terms of payments, the man explained that they were able to agree on a suitable rate of compensation for the workers and they have not had any issues.
When the grinding stops, normal maintenance work on the factory will be executed, along with the appropriate field upkeep. According to the man, since the closure of the estate was announced, the fields were not properly maintained and fertilisers were not being applied anymore. This, he noted, needs to be “beefed up” again.
When maintenance is carried out on the fields and the quality of the cane is improved, the man stated that the performance of the entire factory will be expected to take a hike.
“As you can see we have almost 100 punts of cane coming in right now to restart the grinding. If the factory is operating right now at let’s say 75-85 per cent [capacity] then it will go to 95 per cent. These canes that were harvested, they were not fertilized and were left unattended,” he said, while stating that they expect to increase their efficiency by the second crop, since the quality of cane will improve drastically.
After the fields are prepared and taken care of, the second crop is expected to commence in the middle of May.
In terms of the planting of cane, he explained that they will be offering the lands for private cane farmers to utilise under their expert supervision, as is currently being done at the Rose Hall Estate.
He added that the current look of the factory is good for the industry and they are hoping that the path they have taken will become a blueprint for the industry.
“What I can tell you is, I think they should follow, but I can guarantee that the ones under the NICIL SPU – Enmore, Skeldon and Rose Hall – will be following the pattern,” he said.
In terms of the challenges they have faced, the representative explained that they experienced only minor setbacks such as being unable to procure parts for the factory which are no longer manufactured. However, apart from those small challenges, which they were able to overcome, he said that the smiles on the faces of the workers when all the test runs were completed indicated how successful their preparation had been.