Only one turbine is functioning at Belcogen, but the Belize Sugar Industry resumed operations at 10:00 on Sunday morning, March 7, and all indications are that the sugar production is back on track.
The resumption of the “zaffra” has brought smiles back to the faces of 6,000 cane farmers who had been out of work for four weeks.
The Reporter spoke to the Chairman of the Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association (BSCFA), Alfredo Ortega, who said all lights are “green,” and the operation has not missed a significant beat since Sunday.
Ortega said the farmers had been asked to increase their deliveries from 6,000 tons per day as originally agreed upon, to 6,400 tons.
He said the slight increase is simply to help the farmers and the factory get back on target and ensure that the industry meet its promised target of grinding 1,050,000 tons of cane, which should yield 115,000 tons of sugar by the end of this year’s crop.
Turbine A, or its parts which needed the maintenance, has been successfully returned from Guatemala, reassembled, and has been functioning without its counterpart since Sunday.
Turbine B is still undergoing repairs in Guatemala, but the factory seems to be running smoothly.
The two turbines are essential components of the Belize Cogeneration Energy Limited that powers the Tower Hill factory.
The mill had been shut down since Saturday, February 12, when factory’s operators observed that both turbines, which can produce up to 25 megawatts of power to the national grid of Belize Electricity Ltd, were under-performing and not producing the output required of them.
BSI informed the Association on Tuesday, February 8, of the gradual decline in power output. BSI officials made it clear that if the machines were left to continue malfunctioning, it would result in further and more significant damage to the equipment.
The turbines were dismantled, and their components were transported to a specialized service facility in Guatemala.
At the time, the company had announced they were already 4,984 tons ahead of target, and they were optimistic that the delay would not have upset their projections.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow lamented the “devastating” shutdown, because, as he put it, the industry was well on its way to its best crop year ever. The Reporter