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Bilin township sugar factory eyes December trial launch: minister

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A long-neglected, state-owned sugar factory in Mon State may begin operations as soon as December, Pyithu Hluttaw has heard.

Union Minister of Industry U Khin Maung Cho responded to questions about the Bilin township factory on August 28, after MP U Tin Ko Ko Oo pressed for details. The MP said local reports indicated recent activity on the site pointed toward a restart of operations.

Bilin Township Pyithu Hluttaw MP U Tin Ko Ko Oo (right) pressed Union Minister of Industry U Khin Maung Cho for details on a sugar factory during an August 28 session of parliament. (Photo – Pyithu Hluttaw)
The Mon State Pyithu Hluttaw MP told parliament that local residents reported seeing a water purifier being installed on the 105-acre factory site, as well as a mini market being constructed in staff quarters. U Tin Ko Ko Oo said when residents approached the staff at the factory for insight on future operations, they were not given any information.

“We want to know what kind of arrangements the ministry has secured in its contracts with private companies [for the factory]. It would be great for the local residents if [the factory] is successful. If not, there could still be losses,” he said. “We don’t know whether we should work toward making it a successful project, because right now we don’t know what is in the contract. That’s why we are asking the government to reveal it for the sake of transparency.”

Minister U Khin Maung Cho said the company renting the state-owned factory is trying to build a small sugar machine that can grind 300 tonnes of sugarcane per day. The company has also signed contracts with India and China to buy 16 machines for the sugar mill section and 11 machines for the juice section, he added.

According to the planned schedule, the machines will be installed by mid-October, allowing trial runs to start the second week of December. The company intends to hire 50 staff to run the factory, he added.

The sugar factory and plantation in Mon State’s Bilin township has been seen an ill-fated series of renters with the prospect of brining jobs and industry to the area, but never delivering. The 105-acre factory and 1,325-acre sugar plantation were leased to the Shwe Thanlwin Highway Company in 2011 with a ten-year lease. However, just one year into the contract, the company said the premises needed major renovations. The following year, the company returned the factory to the ministry without undertaking any construction work.

The ministry then leased the factory to AIG Company for K50 million per year, but when the company proved unable to pay its staff, buy sugarcanes from local farmers or pay the electricity bill, the factory again returned to the state.

In November 2015, Super One Dragon Company took over the rent at a price of K25 million per year, according to the ministry.

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