Sugar Technology
On-line News

October 2008

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Apologies for the lateness of this month's news ...


Last month we reported both sides in the buy-out of USSC as expecting to sign in November this year. It now looks as if the deal will not be cut until ‘some time in 2009’ as the State, which wants some of the USSC land for Everglades restoration, admits to needing a partner and to wanting to sell the unwanted assets. That means that Florida Crystals, the owners of Okeelanta and Osceola, must be in discussions with the state because they are the only viable partner : the state needs some of Okeelanta’s land if it is make real use of the USSC land it is after.

The official view on the early part of the credit crunch [remember that you are probably reading this long after the end of September] is that it ‘might’ affect the deal but it is ‘too early to call’.

It has now also emerged that, until the purchase was announced, USSC was in discussions with the cellulosic ethanol company Coskata to set up a plant next to the sugar factory. That might still happen in the new scenario.


Gay & Robinson has announced the closure of its mill on Kauai, leaving Alexander & Baldwin’s Punene mill on Maui as the only sugar mill remaining in Hawaii, a state that once relied on sugar for much of its economy. In making the announcement, G&R stated that it intended using part of the factory for ethanol production. The last sugar will be produced in mid 2010.


Cuba was hit by two hurricanes in September : Gustav followed by Ike. It is too early to predict the effect on the crop but it is clear that there was a lot of infrastructural damage with 700 km of damaged harvest roads and 14 bridges washed away.


What is happening at Guysuco? The Government has come out to enquiry for a ‘Production and Financial Review of the Guyana Sugar Industry’ which essentially means of Guysuco. The company, which is managed by Booker Tate, was created when the industry was nationalised in 1976. It must be going through hard times with the late completion of the Skeldon II project : perhaps the government has lost its appetite? [or its temper?]


The Sugarcane Farmers Cooperative that used to supply cane to Caroni recently purchased the old St Madeleine factory for over US$ 1 million. They have missed the current year crop but intend to operate the factory again next year.


It seems that the privatisation of the JSC is taking longer to finalise than at first thought. What is difficult to see is the cause of the delay through all of the platitudes coming from government. The question will be whether the deal can be cut before the 90 day extension which runs out at the end of the year.


Cargill has announced plans to expand and convert its Cevasa ethanol plant in Sao Paulo province to also produce crystal sugar. The project, with a budget of $100 million, will double the crushing capacity and result in 1 000 t/d of crystal by 2010.


Olam, the Singapore based trader, has announced that it intends to invest $91 million for a 49% stake in a new sugar refinery in Lagos. Its local partner is Modandola. No technical details of the refinery are available.


The wealthy Bin Omir family of Abu Dhabi has announced that intends to invest $300 million to build a new facility in the White Nile province of the Sudan. It is reported that the factory will produce 100 000 tons of crystal sugar and 20 million litres of ethanol. The equipment is expected to come from India.


The Kenyan government, which still owns the Nzoia Sugar Company [only Mumias has been privatised so far], is promising to write off US$ 250 million of the company’s debt. One suspects that several readers of this news page will feel just a touch of envy … Whether the action actual improves the performance is debatable.


Following the articles about Maryborough on this new page over the last few months, it seems that the board wants to expand still further : it has announced an offer for Tully shares, valuing Tully at about Aus$ 110 million. [What the reader needs to understand is that Maryborough is controlled by Guinness Peat which wants to have a strong, if not dominant, role in the local industry.]


Genomatica, a small start-up company working with genetically modified micro-organisms, has announced a process to produce 1,4 butanediol [BDO] from sucrose. As regular readers will know, Tate & Lyle have a jv with DuPont to make 1,3 propanediol, [PDO] by a similar process but starting with starch and therefore, presumably, from glucose.

Meanwhile two separate research groups in the US are claiming commercialiseable success with aqueous phase reforming where sugars solutions are reformed into hydrocarbon compounds using inorganic catalysts or enzymes : the holy grail of carbohydrate research.

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