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Chinese disappoint with sugar production - McConnell

Published:Sunday | January 3, 2016 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
Peter McConnell
Jamaican and Chinese officials tour the Monymusk sugar estate to observe the upgrades to the factory and new equipment in operation in the canefields at Lionel Town, Clarendon. Seen here watching a new cane harvester at work are (from left) commercial counsellor, Embassy of the People'’s Republic of China, Lei Liu; Minister of Agriculture Derrick Kellier; chief executive officer of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company Dr Wu Huaixiang, and Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott. Monymusk is owned and operated by Pan Caribbean.

Leading players in the sugar industry have given Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) a failing grade for its performance since taking over the Bernard Lodge, Monymusk and Frome sugar factories in 2009.

Peter McConnell, the outgoing managing director of Worthy Park Estate, is of the view that the Chinese-owned firm has performed worse than when the estates were under government control.

"As far as the Chinese operations are concerned, I don't see where they have brought anything new to the table," said McConnell.

The businessmas said he is disappointed with the performance of the Chinese, as he was hoping that they were going to bring new technologies and innovations to the table.

"I have not seen it yet. Luckily they have deep pockets," added McConnell.

Delroy Armstrong, senior assistant to Hong Han, chairman and acting CEO of the Chinese firm, refused to comment on the criticisms. He, however, offered to be the conduit through which the questions would get to his boss for a response, but later advised The Gleaner that the PCSC would not be making a comment.

The Chinese firm is a subsidiary of COMPLANT International, which purchased Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge sugar estates for US$9 million in the 2010 government-divestment exercise.

It has invested an estimated US$250 million to renovate the factories, while substantial work was done to improve sugar production in the various cane belts under their control.




Allan Rickards, chairman of the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA), however, is unimpressed with the company's operation to date.

"Pan Caribbean came in and the first danger signal we got is when they sat at the table with us and refused to be a part of the pooling arrangement, when it was so blatantly advantageous.

"They ran into the problem of a deep learning curve, because they came with the opinion that they know more than everyone and have not sought the opinion of their Jamaican workers, who know every bolt and corner of the factories," Rickards claimed.

Frome opens the 2015-2016 crop year with a projection of 40,000 tonnes of the sweetener from 481,000 tonnes of cane, while Monymusk in Clarendon is hoping to produce 21,500 tonnes of the commodity from 237,000 tonnes of cane, when it starts production in February 2016.