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US$4 million more needed to fix Skeldon Sugar factory- officials

Skeldon Sugar Factory

The troubled Skeldon Sugar Factory needs another US$4 million in modifications before it can grind at its maximum as was envisaged when it was commissioned five years ago, top officials said Friday.

Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) Dr. Raj Singh said that due to existing deficiencies the throughput was a mere 200 tons of cane per hour compared to the required amount of around 300 to 350 tons.

Guysuco’s General Manager for Technical Services, Yusuf Abdul identified the need for modified punt-dumpers as the major bugbear facing the factory that had originally cost US$185 million. With one punt-dumper being currently modified, Abdul is optimistic that the factory would soon achieve a throughput of about 300 tons of cane when the second dumper is also changed.

Along with the changing of pumps and valves and the modification of the evaporation system, Abdul is optimistic that the the second punt-dumper would push the throughput much closer to 350 tons. Guysuco’s experts have also recommended the installation of a filtration system to cater for extraneous matter amount to about 10 to 25 percent.

But the CEO highlighted that increasing sugar production was not only about fixing the factory but also getting the required amount of sugar cane. “No matter what you do with the factory, no matter what you do with the punt dumper if you don’t have the canes coming into that factory you would be in the same position,” he said. The company, he said, was continuing to mechanize most aspects of its field operations including harvesting, tilling, planting and spraying.
Company officials noted that private cane farmers had ceased expanding the number of hectares because of Skeldon’s low sugar output, but now they are returning to the land because production was showing good signs of recovery from a time when 17 tons of cane were required to make one ton of sugar. “That was a deterrent to the farmers to continue their expansion. What we have seen over the last crop is very encouraging so most famers now will continue on the road to expansion,” he added.

Singh said that for the first time since the factory was officially switched on in August, 2009 that it produced 13,901 tons of sugar compared to 5,000 tons at last year’s first crop. In terms of efficiency, he said actual grinding were 1,265 during this first crop compared to 492 hours for last year’s first crop. “These are encouraging signs and I think while there is still a lot work to be done to that factory, I think we are moving in the right direction,” Singh added.

The Skeldon Sugar Factory was conceptualized by Booker-Tate to produce raw sugar at US 15 cents per pound. The complex was also expected to include a refinery and electricity generation facility.