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Fresh cane by-products

Bradshaw Maria

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BARBADOS’ struggling sugar cane industry will be hearing about viable alternative commodities to sugar this week.
That’s when the Canadian company Lignol Innovations Inc., which has carried out research for Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) to identify a range of high-value products from sugar cane, will present its findings.
Among the alternatives are lignin, furfural, acetic acids, xylose and ethanol, BSIL said in a letter about Friday’s meeting at the Hilton Barbados.
Lignin is a complex chemical compound used as a binder in particle board and similar products and as a soil conditioner and filler in certain plastics.
Furfural is used as a solvent in petrochemical refining to extract substances to make synthetic rubber. One application of furfural is making solid resins such as those going into producing fibreglass, some aircraft components and automotive brakes.
Acetic acid is an organic acid that gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell, while xylose is a sugar and ethanol is a form of alcohol.
Friday’s presentation will be done by Lignol Innovations’ Dr Kendal Pye.
“It is hoped that this presentation, by reference to his investigations into high-value products of the sugar cane and the related findings, could provide Barbados with a window of production opportunities that could ensure the sustainability and future viability of the Barbados sugar cane industry,” BSIL reported.
Lignol Innovations has carried out tests on Barbados’ sugar cane together with sour grass and African star grass for BSIL.
“From the period when our agreement with Lignol commenced to now, Lignol has made considerable progress in enhancing and establishing the value of its products,” BSIL noted.
“In particular, it has refined the quality of raw lignin to produce high-quality outputs which have proven application in production of epoxy resins, adhesives for particle board and industrial carbon fibre.”
Barbados has been looking to diversify its sugar cane-based production to turn out ethanol, electricity and other items.
But apart from planting of “fuel canes” in an experiment, there appears to have been little movement on an ambitious industry-restructuring plan floated by the previous Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government. Industry suffering
Underscoring the importance of diversifying the products range, BSIL said the sugar industry was now in probably its worst position ever.
BSIL said it had entered the agreement with the Canadian firm, considering that it was unlikely that the proceeds from sugar and its traditional by-products would be able to provide sufficient income to meet “the heavy overheads and running costs of a small industry”.
Independent Senator Dr Frances Chandler, an agronomist and representative of the Barbados Society of Technologists in Agriculture, said yesterday that the meeting should be an eye-opener for people in the sugar cane industry. (TY)