The Tower Hill Sugar Factory has milled 1.22 Million tonnes of sugar cane in the 2020/21 zaffra, and the American Sugar Refiners/ Belize Sugar Industry Ltd expects to produce at least 120,000 tonnes of sugar, of which almost half will be direct consumption plantation white sugar, ASR/BSI announced via a virtual press conference on Thursday afternoon 29 July 2021.
The crop is now winding down as the factory liquidates its stocks of syrup and juices into sugar and final molasses, and bad weather had caused the mill to lose 15 days at the beginning of the harvest, making it difficult crop and putting on the pressure at the end of crop, to get all the cane in the fields, into the mill, explained ASR/BSI Vice President for international relations Mac Maclachlan. The lack of an accurate crop estimate made it hard to plan ahead, so he congratulated the farmers for bringing all the cane, despite the adverse weather.
Roughly half the production will be direct consumption sugar, which will be shipped in 500lb bags in containers from the Port of Belize in Belize City, he clarified and the other half will be shipped a raw sugar in bulk through the Big Creek Port, which has invested in dredging the main channel of the port to a depth of 11 meters, allowing for larger vessels with a deeper draught to berth there. ASR/BSI will now be asking the Government of Belize to ensure the maintenance of sugar roads proceeds as planned, so that the next harvest can begin on time. He noted that heavy rains can mean that a lot of extraneous matter comes into the mill, which affects the efficiency of the mill. The cane brings in mud which wears the mill rollers smooth, making it difficult for the mills to extract all the juice from the cane. This extraneous material has to be removed from the juice before it can be processed into sugar, and the dampness of the bagasse can also affect the performance of the BELCOGEN boilers. This can lead to low steam situations, which would reduce the grinding rate, slowing down the crop, resulting longer queues for the farmers waiting to deliver their cane and reducing overall mill efficiency.
Due to the weather variability produced by climate change, it is best if the crop can start on time to take advantage of the December – June time window, in terms of less rain, and to avoid over-ripening the cane, Maclachlan added. The company has invested in trying to climateproof the Belize sugar industry, by introducing new, improved varieties of cane, which ripen earlier, he explained.
ASR/BSI has also invested $20 Million to reduce its impact on the environment, through two major projects, explained ASR’s director of Finance Shawn Chavarria. It has invested $9 Million to build cooling towers to reduce the temperature of the cooling waters before they are discharged into the New River, and this project is almost complete and will be commissioned in August, he said.
The company is also concerned about the ash in the flue gases which the steam boilers discharge into the atmosphere. To this end the company will be investing another $11 Million to upgrade and replace the electro-static precipitators (ESPs) on the chimneys from the boilers, to improve its air emissions control system. The ESPs remove the ash from the flue gases, before they are released into the air. This project begins this coming repair season, when the ESP on the No.1 Boiler will be demolished and replaced with a newer, more efficient ESP, and the upgrade will also install a dust covers on the flues, to reduce the wear and tear on the boiler tubes, so as to have fewer leaks, and so obtain a better performance from the boilers. The same will be done to the No.2 Boiler in the 2022 off-season.