Friday, April 12, 2024

New thrust for clay industry


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James Husbands, owner of Claytone Products Inc., has suggested a need  to grow the clay industry in Barbados.
The entrepreneur, who is also managing director of Solar Dynamics, said the industry has not been able  to expand as it should over the years.
Claytone Products Inc. was recently advertised in the papers for sale or lease. Husbands, who has been at the helm  of the company for the past 23 years, maintained that he had not lost interest but was simply “passing on the baton”.
“I am willing to offer my advice and knowledge to a new owner, and simply wish to see the industry become a more vibrant source of value-added products for use at home and for export. To achieve this, there is a need for further investment in the industry,” he said.
“Barbados needs to maximize the potential of the clay plant and industry, to generate and save the foreign exchange it is capable of achieving  in the national interest,” said Husbands, adding that there was need to grow the output by improving the production  cycle and upgrading some of the drying and baking systems.
Saying that gold, copper, and other precious minerals were seeing record prices around the world, Husbands added that the Barbados clay industry had the potential for “other development way beyond the areas which have so far been explored, including on-land fish farms and the processing and sale of clay for the worldwide pottery industry.”
Claytone Products Inc. is located  on a ten-acre site at Greenland,  St Andrew, with its own raw material resource. Barbados’ landmass is said  to be one-seventh clay, and tests taken at the Claytone Greenland site found clay at a depth of more than 70 feet.  The plant is currently not in production, and has “a minimal staff” doing plant maintenance and sale of products remaining in stock, according  to Husbands. At its peak, the plant operated with 30 people.
“It is a capital-intensive industry,  and while the financial rewards can  be attractive, one needs to ensure that  a range of engineering, administrative and financial systems are maintained. Continuous systems of production would deliver yield improvements and achieve lower costs per unit of production.  Plant upgrade in the industry needs  to be directed towards automation  where possible,” said Husbands, adding that there was room for both fully mechanized as well as the more labour-intensive handmade clay products  in the market.
So far, while most of the inquiries about the plant are for the lease option, Husbands said there have been offers  for both lease and purchase. He opted not to provide figures as it related to the number of offers but told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that the price tag was not fixed.
“The price is negotiable. There is investment needed to get the plant up and running . . . . It depends on the options being explored between the parties and the time frame for the options to be exercised,” he explained.
The clay on the premises owned  by the company could sustain the operations for more than another  100 years, said Husbands. This, he said,  was based on the evidence of extraction since the plant began in the 1960s.
“There is no shortage of the resource. The opportunity to utilize lands from which clay has been extracted for  fish farming is a parallel investment opportunity. The clay industry has  a very bright future. It is one of the very few Barbados industries in which the national value-added is over 100 per cent. This places clay among the leading products to generate foreign exchange through exports, as well as save foreign exchange through quality product substitution,” he said. (MM)

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