Saudis, Chinese investors eye sugar industry

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SPU Head Colvin Heath-London

INVESTORS from China and Saudi Arabia are among several others who have expressed interest in investing in the local sugar industry, which is being transformed through diversification and privatisation.

Over the years, the sugar industry has declined and in an effort to return it to viability, the government was forced to retrench workers as part of wider reform.

The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), through its Special Purpose Unit (SPU) took control of the Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales estates when government decided to close operations early this year.

Since January 2018, the SPU was tasked with having the estates valuated and ready for sale, but Finance Minister Winston Jordan believes that in order to add to the process of selling the estates, or at least attracting a buyer(s), the two estates should be reopened.
“Initially, in the first round there were approximately 70 investors. In the second round, which is still ongoing for a fixed proposal, we have in the region of 20, but this process will be open until the end of this month, so let’s see what happens and what the numbers will be at the end of the month,” said Head of the SPU, Colvin Heath-London in an invited comment on Tuesday.

In addition to the investors from China and Saudi Arabia, there were expressions of interest from investors in India, South Africa, Australia and Latin America.

Based on the expressions of interest the SPU received, they observed that most stakeholders want to produce sugar-related products at the closed estates, except for Wales, which is on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD).

Investors also have an interest in having diversified crops and products at the estates, said Heath-London, adding that they want to do agro-processing at some estates, particularly Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore.

Heath-London expects that there will be more proposals, since the SPU has advertisements out for “fixed and firm” proposals from investors who have an interest in the industry.
At the end of the advertising period, he said the fixed proposals will be evaluated and recommendations will be made to the necessary board and the Cabinet on which investors should be selected.

“We hope that by February of next year we should have our first investor/ developer running one of the estates and all the other estates hopefully in the next near, distant future will be operational in some form,” said the SPU head, adding that in the interim they are trying to maintain the estates, so that persons who invest in them would have something to work with.

According to a Guyana Chronicle report, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had said that the administration is working to ensure that the sector remains viable and that the livelihoods of sugar workers are protected.

Minister Harmon said government since assuming office, has been faced with the task of making tough decisions with regard to the future of the sugar industry.

According to him, every decision that the government has made with regard to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) has been done, taking into consideration the interests of the sugar workers and the nation.

He had noted that the way the sugar industry was previously managed resulted in severe haemorrhaging of resources, and as such, decisions had to be taken.