Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, says despite the expected downturn in the sugar industry, due to the passage of Hurricane Sandy, stakeholders must rely less on importation and increase production as a means of saving the sector.
“We ought to be thinking about producing sugar for the export market, and to satisfying local demand. The price we get for local sugar is great, and anybody who believes that we are going to get cheap sugar from abroad to sell and make a profit, you had better ‘wheel and come again’,” the Minister said.
Mr. Clarke was delivering the main address at the 75th Annual Conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST), held on November 1, at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort, in Ocho Rios, St. Ann.
"The only way we are going to be able to deal with the demand for the export market to Europe, and for local consumption, is by increasing production, and productivity. We are now developing systems where we can do drip irrigation, where you can maximise the use of water, and get good results,” the Minister noted.
"Together, I want us to make a serious effort in finding a way to lift that production and that productivity,” he added.
Mr. Clarke said that on several occasions the sector had been “written off” by experts, but it bounced back and continue to employ large sections of the larbour force and controls much of the export sector.
“People must regard this industry as a serious industry, and those of you who are technologists must speak about the industry and what you want to see happening. There must be a relationship between the management and the researchers, because all of us are in it for the same cause,” he told the gathering.
The Minister said based on the devastation that he saw on sugar cane farms in the parish of St. Thomas, the next crop will fall below expectations.
Mr. Clarke emphasised that given the importance of sugar to the Jamaican economy, he will be working at ensuring that crucial support from the Government is given to the sector, so that full production can be achieved in a short while.
“The next crop is going to be effected, but I don’t know to what extent. I ask you, with all the difficulties, don’t give up. This is an industry that must survive. We set our targets and we must work towards them…let us make a genuine effort to lift the production in a serious way,” the Minister urged.