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  • The Government has announced measures to assist sugarcane farmers, who have been severely affected by drought over the past two years.
  • Among the measures is a relief on loan repayment for farmers, who accessed funds under the Cane Expansion Fund.
  • He was addressing the 66th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on November 12.

The Government has announced measures to assist sugarcane farmers, who have been severely affected by drought over the past two years.

Among the measures is a relief on loan repayment for farmers, who accessed funds under the Cane Expansion Fund.

“Given the impact of the droughts of both 2014 and 2015 on farmer productivity as well as earnings, the Government has taken a decision to only recover 80 per cent of loan repayment due from farmers this year,” said Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier.

He was addressing the 66th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston on November 12.

According to Minister Kellier, where “that 80 per cent has not been recovered from the two tranches of second payments so far, I have directed that no further repayment is to be recovered from the third payment, which is due to be paid this week.”

He said the move will allow farmers to finance the required inputs “to ensure that you can reap a good crop next year.”

“The Cane Expansion Fund will engage affected farmers on an individual basis to reschedule the loan accordingly,” he added.

Minister Kellier said the measures, aimed at increasing sugarcane productivity and efficiency, and boosting the earnings of farmers, will also include engaging all the relevant stakeholders in the industry “to have another look” at the pricing of local molasses.

This will enable farmers to earn more from the sugarcane by-product and for factories to pay a greater percentage of the cane price in the first payment.

“Given the diversification of the product base of the sugar cane that has already started, albeit slowly, with Pan-Caribbean moving into cogeneration, I am again instructing the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) to review the cane payment formula in order to make sure that farmers enjoy some of the revenues from these co-products,” said the Minister.

He informed that road repairs in all cane parishes are expected to resume in the next financial year when some 80 kilometres of roads are to be rehabilitated.

Negotiations will also be undertaken with the European Union for additional projects geared at directly impacting the competitiveness of cane growers.

“For instance, we will be proposing to convert some of the open canals in the Rio Cobre and mid-Clarendon areas to pressurised piped systems in order to accommodate the use of drip irrigation,” Minister Kellier said.

The Government, he stated, will be taking a new approach to the construction and operation of new irrigation systems, through the utilisation of renewable energy to arrest water loss and generally deliver irrigation water at low prices.

This is critical to increasing productivity and competitiveness, not only in the sugarcane sector but across the entire agricultural landscape, he pointed out.

During the AGM, Chief Executive Officer of the SIA, George Callaghan, acknowledged the importance of increasing sugarcane productivity even as cane prices fall.

He voiced support for the cess or levy on refined sugar, noting that the SIA stood ready to back measures for the prosperity of the industry.

The cess, announced last year, is to address the loss of revenue due to the leakage of imported duty-free sugar, intended for manufacturing, into the retail trade. The proceeds will allow for the investment in public goods to enhance the competitiveness of the sugar industry.

Chairman of the All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association, Allan Rickards, was also vocal in supporting the levy on sugar.