Tuesday 25 February, 2020

Barbados to produce energy at Portvale Sugar Factory

Sugarcane harvesting in St. Philip near Sunbury Plantation.

Sugarcane harvesting in St. Philip near Sunbury Plantation.

- By Ryan Gilkes

It appears past plans to diversify the local sugar industry to include the production of ethanol has been shelved, however, Agriculture and Food Security Minister Indar Weir has suggested renewable energy production is still in its future.

“Ethanol is off the table simply because that project did not take off when it should have [taken off] and a lot has changed since then.  What we are currently discussing is a complete transformation from what the traditional model was, to a new model.  This will see the transfer of ownership of the state-owned Barbados Agricultural Management Company – BAMC, away from total government ownership, into a Private-Public sector Partnership.

“The farmers, themselves, will have an opportunity to own major shares in the entity.  The public of Barbados, which will speak to the ordinary people who work in the fields, will have an opportunity to take part, then we will look at institutions like credit unions and so on to take part.  The government will then have just a small portion and we will create the regulatory framework and then continue to work with the private farmers and the private entity,” he revealed adding that the aim was to create a value chain cane industry.

Currently, Barbados focuses on sugar production with some molasses, but the Minister notes that changes will be made that will see enough sugar being provided for direct consumption. 

“We will continue with the speciality packaging and try to market as much as possible with the partnership we have with WISCO – the West Indies Sugar Company, but local consumption of Barbados sugar will be allowed.  We will also seek to increase molasses production so rum producers could get more locally.

“Once all parties can agree . . . if this project is going to come off and come off successfully, we have to continue the conversation that we are having.  My team and I have already met with the rum producers and we have to get back there.  We have to present to the Barbados Sugar Industries Limited as well to get their buy-in,” Weir said.

In addition to molasses, the new model will also have a greater focus on renewable energy, with Bagasse being burnt to produce Biomass at the island’s lone sugar factory, Portvale in St James.

“We are going to be producing our own energy at Portvale, but we will be in a position to provide enough energy to provide to the national grid.  This also is going to be supported by the project which the BSIL is currently pursuing to create a Biomass pilot project.

If all the partnerships can come together and, we can convince all the stakeholders to participate, by mid-2019, we will be in a good position to state where we are at, and hopefully, for 2020, there will be a completely new arrangement in terms of how the crop will run and who will be responsible,” the minister pointed out.

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