JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, is urging sugar cane farmers and factory estates to increase production, for the survival of the industry.
Speaking at the recently held All Island Cane Farmers Association Annual General Meeting at the Hilton Kingston Hotel, Minister Clarke emphasized that in order to survive, the industry has to double production. “If we are doing 40,000 (tonnes), the industry has to double it to 80,000 tonnes. The industry must double what is coming out of the field,” he explained.
Sugar production is falling in the face of a market demand of 200,000 tonnes. Last year, Jamaica produced 120,000 tonnes of sugar, a reduction when compared with the previous year’s 180,000 tonnes.
The preferential sugar relationship that Jamaica had with Europe is ending. This means that the preferential sugar prices will end soon, therefore, over the next three years, Jamaica must produce more sugar cane and do so efficiently.
While the Frome Sugar Estate is up and running and earning money, Minister Clarke is urging the other three estates, Monymusk, Bernard Lodge and Worthy Park to do the same, as they account for 70 per cent of production. He pointed out that the government did not want to close down any of the factories, so the factories must prove that they should not be closed.
In order to help the sugar cane industry, the government has put forward a proposal that should propel them. It has put in place an enterprise team to receive offers for those wishing to participate in the industry. This team is headed by Chairman, Aubyn Hill and includes Ambassador Derrick Heaven.
So far, the enterprise team has fielded offers from Brazil, China, Canada and local cane farmers who are interested in participating in the privatization of the five government estates – Frome, Bernard Lodge, Worthy Park, Appleton and Monymusk.
“If we are going to run this business well, those coming to the table must come with the resources, in terms of management, the technology and the financial resources necessary to run this business,” Mr. Clarke said.
In addition to that assistance, the Minister has also discussed with the Ministry of Finance a plan to put in place $100 million to help with the cane replanting programme, which should boost production. “That $100 million has been committed,” Mr. Clarke said.
He explained that the Minister of Finance was in dialogue to make the $100 million a revolving loan programme. Another investment of $100 million is earmarked to bring the total to $200 million. That $200 million in the revolving loan programme would enable farmers to once again achieve high levels of productivity, the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke pointed out that before this money could be accessed through the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), collateral is needed, as it would not be a handout. The money would be paid based on the work (production) that is done. “That is the only way that the money is going to be dispersed. There must be production. The money needs to be paid back and will be managed by the Sugar Industry Authority,” the Minister stressed.
To further facilitate an easy transition into full throttle production, the Ministry of Agriculture has also accessed money to repair sugar cane farm roads. “We have committed approximately $50 million to deal with fixing farm roads,” the Minister said.
Of that amount, Frome has been allocated $11.5 million; Monymusk, $8 million; Worthy Park, $7 million; Bernard Lodge, $5.5 million; Trelawny factories, $6 million; Appleton, $4.25 million; and St. Thomas, $5.6 million.

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