Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke has declared that the country’s sugar industry could be successfully sustained, reiterating that the government stood committed to the survival of the industry.
He was speaking at the 12th anniversary launch of the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmer’s Association’s National Cane Cutter’s Competition, 2004, which was held at the offices of Desnoes and Geddes Limited.
“If sugar can be produced efficiently somewhere in the world, it must be able to be produced efficiently here in Jamaica. We have a history and we must be able to do it too,” Mr. Clarke said, pointing out that there had been many occasions on which the industry would have disappeared, had it not been for government intervention. “We divested and at the end of the day, it is back in the lap of the government. The government of Jamaica has a vested interest in the survival of the sugar industry. Sugar is still alive and well,” he emphasized.
The Agriculture Minister said among some of the hurdles that were to be overcome, was to ensure that no raw sugar was imported. Lauding stakeholders for their efforts to make the industry a fruitful one, Mr. Clarke said: “Every cent that the sugar workers get, they deserve it. Working in sugar is not easy. There has to be an understanding between the workers, farmers and the manufacturers that all of us are in it for the long haul”.
Stating that the prospects were good for sugar farming, the Minister said, “Challenges there are, but opportunities also abound, some good things are going to happen in agriculture”. He noted also, that the level of maturity being displayed by the unions representing the sugar industry was such as had never been seen before.
Meanwhile, patron of the competition, Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke told the gathering, “I predict that cane sugar is going to be one of the most important ingredients in nutrition in the world of the future,”
Also, Mr. Clarke said a number of other positive developments were taking place in the agriculture sector with domestic agriculture benefiting from positive developments in the tourism sector due to the high demand for vegetables and other food supplies in that sector.
In addition, Blue Mountain coffee was expected to go up by nearly 50 per cent and some 87 tonnes of ginger was to be produced this year, up from 11 tonnes. He said Jamaica was also self sufficient in egg production with the product being exported to Trinidad and Tobago since November of last year. More pimento is to be produced this year and pig production has also increased.
The Minister also informed that the quality of local goats had been improved and that the animals were now maturing by six months instead of several years. A bottling plant for honey is being worked on to increase export capabilities for that product.
The competition is being staged over three months with the first elimination set to take place at the Frome factory in Westmoreland on February 7, followed by a second elimination on February 21 at the Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth, and the third elimination on March 6 at the Monymusk factory in Clarendon. A fourth elimination will be staged on March 20 at the St. Thomas sugar factory and a fifth on April 3 at Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine. The last elimination will be on April 17 at the sugar factory in Trelawny, followed by the finals at Frome on the 24th of April. Last year’s competition saw 96 entrants with the male winners emerging from Frome, while the winners in the female category were from Trelawny.