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From the media: President optimistic of revised sugar regime

The following article was taken from the Guyana Chronicle website, January 29, 2005 issue.

President optimistic of revised sugar regime
- Skeldon modernisation project launched

President Bharrat Jagdeo is hopeful that support will be forthcoming from the European Union (EU) in meeting the challenges of the revised sugar regime.

In this regard he said the recent visit by the European Commission's (EC) Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson should help to convince the EC of the importance of the sugar industry to the welfare of the Guyanese people, and the significant role it plays in drainage and irrigation and thus revisit the proposed sugar regime.

The president made the remarks at the official launch of the Skeldon Sugar Factory Modernisation Project yesterday at the Le Meridien Pegasus.

A commemorative plaque signifying the start of the project was unveiled by Guyana's Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee and visiting Chinese Vice-Minister of Commerce, An Min.

President Bharrat Jagdeo in acknowledging the significance of the sugar industry emphasised its importance in maintaining Guyana's macroeconomic stability, the survival of the sugar industry and its integration into the lives of the people.

He emphasised the importance of the project in meeting the challenges of globalisation expressed the hope that the project will be completed on time.

The President explained that the loan for the project is on concessional terms thus will not put a burden on debt servicing which has been significantly reduced, and the viability of the sugar industry is crucial in sustaining the debt servicing capacity of the national economy.

Recalling the conceptualisation of the project which began in 1994, the President noted the difficulties along the way in convincing international organisations about its significance and the difference it would make in the lives of people.

He said the project represented 10 years of hard work which finally came to fruition and a reflection of the long standing friendly relations between Guyana and China which is gaining influence as a global power.

President Jagdeo noted that while there is celebrations in relation to the project, "we must remember the horrendous conditions" people are enduring as a result of the current flood disaster which is the worst in Guyana's history.

However, he is urging people to be courageous, expressing optimism that "we are going to recover from this", adding that the response of Guyanese from all quarters has made him "even more proud of our people."

Mr. Min hailed the project as one of the biggest embarked upon between Guyana and China and expressed pleasure that after two years of efforts on both sides it will now proceed.

Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), Ronald Ali noted that the Skeldon project is a cornerstone of GUYSUCO's strategic plan and will be a major contributor in the drive towards reducing the costs of production and increase in production quality, pointing out that at Skeldon costs will be reduced to eight US cents per pound and across the industry to US11cents per pound.

He also acknowledged the work of those who are involved in the national relief effort in the face of the current floods, noting that GUYSUCO has been totally involved in the effort to control and lower the level of flood waters, disclosing that all GUYSUCO drainage pumps and sluices have been fully operational throughout this flood period.

He added because of the present disaster, the launching ceremony which should have been on a larger scale at Skeldon became impractical.

Ali disclosed that the new sugar factory will modern processing techniques such as diffusion technology in place of the conventional milling process, which will be a first for Guyana, and will enhance sucrose recovery and low operating costs, as well as reduced power requirement which is particularly suited to co-generation of power.

In addition to main inputs from China, Ali said there will be key technical inputs from Australia, Finland, France, United Kingdom and South Africa.

"The whole process from cane receiving to sugar dispatch, will be highly automated and controlled by a central control system," he declared, observing that this will create new challenges for the training capacity of GUYSUCO.

The new factory will have a production capacity of 110, 000 tonnes annually, nearly three times the capacity of the present factory, and along with an expanded cane cultivation and factory improvement programme, annual national production will be upped to over 450,000 tonnes for which suitable markets, within a range of sugar product qualities, have been identified, Ali said.