Thu | Jul 2, 2020

Lydford to ship first limestone exports since crisis

Published:Friday | May 29, 2020 | 12:28 AMKarena Bennett - Business Reporter

Eddie Cousins, director of Lydford Mining.
Eddie Cousins, director of Lydford Mining.

LYDFORD MINING will today set sail its first shipment of processed limestone from Reynolds Pier, Ocho Rios, since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Jamaica.

In fact, the roughly 35,000 tons in shipment which is valued at US$1 million, also marks the first shipment for the company since the start of the year and instantly provides relief to Lydford Mining, which has seen a 60 per cent dip in domestic sales year-on-year.

“That, of course, had a very serious impact on our operations. So we welcome the return of exports,” Director of Lydford Mining Eddie Cousins told the Financial Gleaner.

The shipment, which is planned for this morning, Friday, is ­destined for the US military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Lydford Mining will follow up with a ­second shipment there in July.

Social-distancing restrictions in April forced many businesses across Jamaica which did not fall in the category of essential ­services to operate part-time or temporarily shutter their doors. But while Lydford Mining’s ­operation was designated an ­essential service, due to its affiliation to the construction industry, its sales started to nosedive from as early as February when the virus-­induced economic fallout began in the United States.

Now, Cousins is optimistic that the reopening of major ­economies, particularly the US, will see a return to some level of normality in the short term.

“That is where our salvation lies,” he said.

“As for the local market, it is going to take some time, in my opinion, for us to see things start going again. We are in a market that is based on capital projects. I believe it’s going to take us into next year before we start seeing any real turnaround,” he added.

Lydford Mining has over the past three years benefited from a boom in construction activities in both the commercial and residential market segments. However, in additional to a slowdown in contracts from the US, the past three months have brought financial uncertainty to the 27-year-old company, as tourism-related expansion projects came to a halt and job cuts across the sector had individuals prioritising how to spend each dollar.

“We have produced construction aggregates for that sector on a large scale, but I can say without reservation that all the big ­capital projects that were planned for this year are on pause. On the other hand, a large part of our market would be small businesses and hotel workers on the north coast, people that are building or expanding their houses; but with 280,000 unemployed ­tourism workers, there is a direct ­correlation,” he said.

Lydford employs 105 workers full-time and another 50 on a contractual basis. Despite declining revenue, Cousins said he has retained all staff on payroll, but salaries were cut across all levels of the business.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com