Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, is calling on cane farmers to significantly increase the number of hectares under production, so as to boost sugar output and increase earnings from the sector.
The Minister, who was speaking at a public awareness seminar for industry stakeholders held on May 2 at the Golf View Hotel in Manchester, said the country earns approximately US$100 million per year from sugar exports, but there is potential to bring in even more.
“The good money is there but there is no sugar to get the money. We want more sugar to get more money,” Mr. Clarke stated.
He lamented that the industry, which once produced more than 500,000 tonnes of sugar on an annual basis, is now only producing about 120,000 tonnes. He stated that while the industry may not be able to get back to its halcyon days, “we must set our targets to reach that”.
“We have stagnated over the past few years. As a matter of fact, in 2007, I think we did 163,000 tonnes and then after that we went down to about 120,000 tonnes”, he said.
The Minister said the aim is to move cane farmer output from 600,000 tonnes to a total of 1.4 million tonnes over the next three or four years. “That means you are going to have to increase the production of cane by some 800,000 tonnes and bring the total area under cane to about 20,000 hectares from the present 12,000 hectares,” he pointed out.
Minister Clarke said that the Sugarcane Expansion Fund was set up to provide additional funding to support the expansion of the industry and is delivering on its promise to make the funds available.
He stated that the sugar industry is critical to the country, in terms of creating employment and enhancing rural development. “Everybody knows the impact the sugar industry has on rural communities. The employment created by the sugar factories is what keeps some rural communities going,” he stated.
The public awareness seminar was to raise awareness on how the resources available through the Sugarcane Expansion Fund can be utilised to increase sugar cane production.
The session was organised by the Sugar Cane Transformation Unit (STU) in the Ministry, which is mandated to drive the efficiency, productivity and expansion of the sugarcane industry.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter