JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke has charged cane farmers to seek to increase production to counter the effects of the 39 per cent cut in the price of sugar proposed by the European Union.
The Minister, who was speaking at a meeting of the Mid-Island Cane Farmers Association in Four Paths, Clarendon recently, told the farmers that despite several attempts by the government to lobby for a much longer period of adjustment, the EU seemed bent on going ahead with the planned price reduction. He said the onus was now on the farmers to increase their yields through greater efficiency, which would lower the unit cost of production, and fully utilize their land capacity, among other measures.
“We have to prepare ourselves for the worst and one of the things that we have to understand even as we bemoan what is happening, is that we have to quickly do whatever we can to set our house in order.my bottom line has always been and will continue to be (that) we have to grow the cane efficiently,” Minister Clarke stated.
He noted further that, “we cannot have a situation where the national average is like 20 tonnes per acre. Right now if you have a 40 per cent cut and you can lift that 20 up to 40 tonnes per acre, you can compensate for some of the difficulties.”
Mr. Clarke also highlighted the need to seriously diversify the industry and pursue the production of by-products such as ethanol, bagasse for cogeneration and to increase rum production.
He said that improved efficiency was important to counter challenges such as increases in the cost of water, fuel, fertilizer, machinery/equipment and labour.
The Minister pointed out that the repercussions of the 39 per cent price cut would be devastating to the already struggling sugar industry, adversely affecting some 40,000 workers, cane farmers, and other industry players. In addition, some 400 million Euros would be lost to all African Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP). He noted however, that the EU had proposed to put in place a 40 million Euro assistance package for the ACP countries.
Minister Clarke told the farmers, that the ACP continued to lobby against the EU proposal and to request more time for adjustment. He said these efforts would continue until November, when the proposal was expected to go before the EU Parliament for ratification.
The price cuts are expected to come into effect by July 2006 when the first five per cent reduction will take place. Subsequently, a 21 per cent reduction will take place in 2007, another six per cent cut by July 2008 and the final 14 per cent by 2009.
Minister Clarke noted that there were some 10 EU nations that were not in agreement with the price cut, as their farmers would also be adversely affected.
Meanwhile, in his remarks at the meeting, Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies committed to ensuring that the industry is efficiently run and that the Monymusk Sugar Factory in Clarendon remained open. The factory was closed for the 2004/05 sugar crop.
“There is no open cheque book but I would like to say to you tonight that we are committed to ensuring that the SCJ (Sugar Company of Jamaica) not only survives .but reaches the efficiency levels to deal with the challenges we face.I’m also committed to maintaining Monymusk as a sugar factory,” he told the gathering.
Minister Davies, who has responsibility for the SCJ, noted that to achieve these goals, farmers must produce cane efficiently as agricultural subsidies would not remain in perpetuity.
He also pointed to the need for strong partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, scheduled and regular meetings leading up to crop time to monitor every detail of operations at the factories.