After months of uncertainty and a war of words between Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler over funding for the Barbados Cane Industry Restructuring Project (BCIRP), preparatory work has finally started on the proposed site for a multi-purpose sugar factory at Andrews, St Joseph.
However, Ian Rogers, chief operating officer for Inter Sugar Partnership (ISP) – coordinators for the project funding – told Barbados TODAY it was now unlikely the factory would be ready to begin accepting canes for the 2017 harvest as was earlier anticipated.
“We are still planning through the project in detail. Trying to get the factory open for 2017 was probably too slim at the moment because of the lateness of duration of feeding in the production of the equipment and erecting it on site. We are still working to see if that is still achievable, but it is possible it will slip another year in terms of being operational in 2018,” Rogers stated.
He said one solution may be to operate some aspects of the factory in 2017 in order to obtain a level of electricity generation. He said those details were still being worked on. The preparatory work at the Andrews factory, which began a few days ago, should take a couple months to finish. The structural demolition that follows immediately afterwards, is expected to last another six to nine months.
The ISP executive said the preparatory and demolition process leading up to an early 2016 commencement of construction was a complex one, but that efforts were being made to hand over this public-private partnership project in as cost-effective a way as possible.
“The situation is that we are commencing preparation on site for the demolition phase of the existing factory. That will be a long and complicated process. It’s an old factory with complicated engineering inside so that’s got to be done on a steady progressive basis to ensure a safe and orderly progression of demolition. So that’s going to take some considerable time, probably six to nine months to accomplish that,” Rogers added.
The ISP chief operating officer explained that workers hired by a private contractor were now securing the site.
While the Barbados Cabinet earlier this year approved the borrowing of a foreign loan of US$250 million to execute the BCIRP, Rogers said negotiations were still ongoing to determine the final cost of the project and completion date.
“We are still in tender negotiations with contractors on the main construction process, so we haven’t got finalized programmes. So that’s going to take 18 to 24 months to complete,” he stated.
Rogers disclosed that additional lands were needed for the processing and storage of the finished sugar products.
“We are in negotiation with the adjacent land owner to take over some of that land so the whole project can be built out on an extended site . . . . We are also in negotiations on the funding part of the project,” he said.
He also told Barbados TODAY changes were expected in the design of the factory, particularly in the application of new technology. The COO said this technology would allow the factory to extract as much juice from the canes as was physically possible with the aim of ensuring greater revenue and sustainability over the long term.
He disclosed that discussions were ongoing with independent cane farmers, as well as Sagicor and the Judicial Managers of CLICO, which own some of the largest amounts of the most fertile agricultural lands in Barbados, with a view to bringing those lands back into sugar production.
In adding more details, Executive Chairman of ISP Anthony DaSilva told this newspaper that a protocol had been worked out with the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) so it could access certain key pieces of equipment from the existing Andrews factory to keep Portvale running for the next three years.
DaSilva also revealed that the contract for demolition has already been awarded and the contractor took possession of the site last Friday. He said while negotiations continue with investors to determine the final cost of the project, ISP had secured $10 million in interim financing to ensure the project got off the ground.
The main features of the multi-purpose factory will include a 25 megawatt co-generation plant, supplying year-round electricity to help support the financial viability of the factory and also feed the national power grid.
There will also be direct sugar sales from the factory resulting in more high end and value added product for local, regional and international export and increased molasses production for the rum industry.