Guyana-born freight forwarder, Indian companies eye investing in sugar industry

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 January 2017, 22:50 by Denis Chabrol

FLASH BACK GUYSUCO’S FUTURE: Top officials of GuySuco and government ministers meeting with high-level representatives of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE) and the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

Two Indian companies – one  an alloy steel casting manufacturer for sugar factories and another specialised in sugar production- as well as a United States (US)-based company owned by a Guyana-born American freight forwarder are interested in investing in the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco), even as government said Thursday it was becoming impatient waiting on proposals from the opposition and the two sugar worker unions on how to revive the industry.

“The Government is at this stage concerned, that no response has been provided by the Opposition or the Unions which could be tabled for consideration.

It is important that the process of consultations be condensed, particularly since there are significant financial, economic and social implications attached to an extended delayed process for consultations,” the David Granger-led administration said in a statement issued through the Government Information Agency (GINA).

In a statement, government said Srinath Ispat Limited, a firm based in Indian with extensive knowledge of the sugar industry, would be in Guyana from Monday, January 23, 2017 to hold talks with the Guyana Government  on possible investments in GuySuco.

The administration said the delegation, which will be led by President of Integrated Casetech Consultants PV T. LTD, Mr. Rajesh Kumar Agarwal and Managing Director of Sunrise Holdings, Mr. Tony Joseph,  will visit  major sugar estates, prior to having meetings with the Government. There is no company listed in the Iowa corporate registry bu the name of Sunrise Holdings with Joseph as a director, but one named Sunrise Investing LLC that names him as a director.

Integrated Casetech Consultants has supplied sugar production equipment to several countries including Zimbabwe. In 2014, that company had been named as source of engineers  to run the problem-plagued US$150 million Skeldon Sugar Factory.

Srinath Ispat Limited manufactures steel casings for use in a variety of industries including Hydro Power, Steel, Thermal Power, Sugar, Cement, Mining and Heavy Engineering industry sectors.

The Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry held a ribbon cutting ceremony at Joseph Pack-N-Ship on Oct. 8, 2015 at its new location at 2506 Park Ave., Suite A. Attending the ceremony, front row, from left: Janet Morrow, GMCCI director of membership and marketing; Jena Joseph, owner; Ralph Joseph, owner; Sita Nagamootoo; Moses Nagamootoo, First Vice President/Prime Minister of Guyana; Angela Joseph, owner; Tony Joseph, company president; Brian Linderman, store manager; Josie Nichols; and Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins. Back row: Amanda Peterson, Katey Siren, Misty Lutz. (photo from Muscatine Journal)

Joseph heads a freight forwarding company, Joseph Pack-n-Ship in Muscatine, Iowa. His Guyanese wife, Angela Joseph, worked in the marketing department of the Mirror newspaper, a publication aligned to the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).  Back in October 8, 2015, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at Joseph Pack-N-Ship.

Sunrise Investing. Joseph Industries and Joseph Pack-N-Ship share the same physical address.

Tony Joseph has reportedly stated that he migrated from Guyana in the 1970s to the British Virgin Islands with his father to take up a teaching job there.  He learned the freight forwarding business in Canada and worked at a freight forwarding company in Chicago before returning to Muscatine where he set up his own shipping company.

He recalled having to leave Guyana in 1977 because of the political conditions then during the rule of the then People’s National Congress (PNC).  “When I was young in Guyana, there was an election, and the military collected the ballot boxes at gunpoint and kept the dictator in power. My dad decided it was time to get out. He had an opportunity in 1977 to teach in Tortola. In 1980, my mother had an opportunity to become a nanny in Philadelphia, and we immigrated to America. My parents knew a missionary pastor from Muscatine who invited us to Muscatine. He helped us find a place to stay and

Tony Joseph (photo from Muscatine Journal)

get our first car. Muscatine has been really good to my family. I have nothing negative about Muscatine.” he was quoted as saying in the Muscatine Journal.

Government said during the week-long visit, the team will be meeting the Prime Minister Nagamootoo and other relevant Ministers as well as senior officials of the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

“The cash strapped entity has for a number of years been requiring bailouts from the state’s coffers and Government, since taking office in May 2015, has been looking to attract not only new markets, but possible investments,” government said.

The Guyana government said since its first meeting on December 31, 2017 with representatives of the PPP, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), those entities have not submitted any ideas to be added to the administration’s proposed options so that an agreed position could be decided on in a timely manner on the future of GuySuCo.

“It is evident, in view of the amount of its financial commitments, unless a decision is made on the future of GuySuCo, the cash strapped corporation will only continue to be a liability to the Government.

The Government of Guyana has presented a number of alternatives to keep the Corporation afloat including diversification of its activities which has been shared with stakeholders. If a decision is not made on a way forward as a matter of urgency, the future of the sugar industry would be jeopardized,” government said.

The administration said GuySuCo has requested GYD$18 billion from the Government for 2017. However, the National Assembly had only approved GYD$9 billion of which GYD3 billion have already been disbursed and utilized by GuySuCo. The remaining GYD$6 billion is due for disbursement in March, 2017. “Recommendations on the financing of the deficit has been made by GuySuCo for consideration and a decision is urgently awaited,” government added.

Meanwhile,  Minister of Natural Resources Raphael Trotman earlier Thursday refuted claims of potential sale of the Skeldon factory and considered them false and therefore, “should not be repeated or peddled so it is just a MoU to conduct a feasibility study, there is nothing here that signs the assets away but it is just meant to conduct a study.”

Trotman was questioned on the Memorandum of Understanding  (MoU) that was signed between the Government of Guyana and D. Rampersaud and Company Limited (DRCL), a consultancy firm based in Trinidad and Tobago to undertake feasibility studies for other sugar processing activities.

Aerial view of the Skeldon Sugar Factory.

“There is no such thing as a “secret deal”. This matter has been shared with the Parliamentary Opposition, with GuySuCo, of course with the Unions representing workers of GuySuCo and copies were made available by (the) government so it is not true to say that it has been hidden.” Minister Trotman explained.

The Minister said that the government was not aware of summoning members of the Opposition to be witnesses as it enters in to any MoU since it is simply just an MoU. However, Trotman noted that copies of this document can be made available as no ‘confidentiality clause’ has been attached.

Trotman explained that, “I have no doubt that the Ministry of Business will not object to the document being released, there is no confidentiality clause to it but if I could just quote from what it says, it just says that, “the parties agree that this MoU constitutes a strategic liaison between the company and Go-Invest, intended to formulate and facilitate the development of a feasibility study for an integrated sugarcane processing facility for GuySuCo assets and related assets in Skeldon, Guyana.”

NAACIE President, Kenneth Joseph has said GuySuco and government are considering shrinking the existing estates to three: Wales-Uitvlugt, Albion-Rose Hall and Blairmont.

He has said the plans include the sale of Skeldon’s estate, factory and co-generation facility possibly to an American firm, the exclusion of a section of Rose Hall’s field operations and the closure of the Rose Hall factory, and the possible sale of Enmore as the potential buyer appears interested in taking advantage of the packaging capacity there.

Joseph has also said other major aspects of GuySuco’s planned overhaul include the stripping of drainage, health and activities that “have little or no direct connection with sugar.” Joseph said government planned to provide the unions with the projected savings from such a plan.