JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, has said that with an increase in sugar cane production, Jamaica would reap benefits from ethanol production and diversification.
Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture, Senator Anthony Johnson, agreed but lamented that unfortunately, people, particularly youngsters associated sugar cane with the old days of slavery and colonialism and not with “the real and actual science and technology that it requires”.
They were both speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the All-Island Cane Farmers Association held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel where information was shared on Brazil’s booming success in the sugar cane business science and the fact that technology were among the main factors for this.
Professor Antonio Bonomi of the Brazilian Institute for Technological Research whose specialty is in the area of biotechnology and biofuels, said Brazil was interested in partnering with Jamaica to produce ethanol.
Professor Bonomi informed that 10 years ago, Brazil invested $11 billion in ethanol and had over the past eight years saved $30 billion. Some of the South American country’s achievements include: a reduction in the importation and expenditure of oil, reduction in the cost of expanding the agricultural frontier; an increase in Gross Internal Revenue; an expansion of the equipment sector; new distilleries built; biogas made from the stillage and stillage also used for irrigation. Jamaica aims to realize similar success with ethanol.
In his presentation, Worthy Park Factory Chairman, Fitzroy Douglas pointed out that Jamaica needed the money from sugar cane. Agreeing with this position, Senator Johnson said, “sugar has brought over $100 million to Jamaica. We export $1.1 billion worth of products.almost $200 million is between sugar and rum”.
Sugar cane’s spin off industry in Jamaica entails the transportation (of cane), reaping and mechanization industry while bagasse has been demonstrated to produce alcohol, and coupled with that is the rum industry.
Minister Clarke emphasized that everyone now understood that Jamaica needs a sugar cane industry. “Everybody is conceding that the days of just manufacturing sugar cane and molasses are over. Co-products must be produced if we are going to have a wider income base from the sugar cane industry,” he said.
He further stressed, “Sugar, ethanol, [and] co-generation means that we are using everything that comes from the sugar cane, that is where we have to go if we want to survive. But we want more sugar cane, management, [and] capital because if we are not producing cane efficiently, we will not be able to produce ethanol efficiently, (or) molasses efficiently, we will not have the biomass to deal with the co-generation.”
He said that in order to facilitate sustainability, Jamaica must seize the opportunities from adding value to the production of raw sugar, including the production of ethanol and co-generation. However, the most critical step towards competitiveness, must be the efficient production of the raw material – the sugar cane.
Internationally, the European Union (EU), Jamaica’s major export market is reducing the price it pays for sugar it imports from African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states by 36 per cent over four years.
In order for the industry to develop sustainability, Jamaica must intensify the diversification programme and increase the level of efficiency, thereby reducing the cost of production. The sugar industry needs an adequate supply of cane to be produced to facilitate a multi-product industry.
The sugar cane industry has as its immediate goal, the production of three million tonnes of sugar cane, which it aims to achieve by 2008.
This production level is needed to develop new revenue and reduce dependence on income derived from just raw sugar and molasses and as such, the renaming of the industry – as a sugar cane industry rather than a sugar industry points to this.
Additionally, the sugar cane plant is the most efficient converter of solar energy into biomass. This means that it is important as a source of renewable energy, whether it is used for the production of ethanol as fuel or as an additive for the transport sector or for the generation of electrical power.
Technology is achieving conversion of bagasse to ethanol and the conversion of sucrose into industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals now made from petroleum. The future attests to the importance of renewables and biomass, sugars and the broader family of carbohydrates.