JIS News

The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. the Honourable Christopher Tufton, in a Statement to Parliament on July 13, 2010, addressed the issue of the announced closure of the Long Pond Sugar Factory, for the 2010/2011 sugar crop, by Everglades Farms Limited. At that time, the Honourable Minister mandated the Executive Chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) to conduct an investigation into the situation and report back to him, with particular emphasis on the harvesting of the farmers’ cane. The Chief Executive Officer of the SCJ Holdings was also mandated to investigate and report on any possible breaches of the divestment agreement by the new owners.
Upon receiving the report from the SIA recently, the Minister convened a meeting with the Principals of Everglades Farms Limited, the Chairman of the SIA and the CEO of SCJ Holdings, to ascertain from Everglades their plans with respect to the rehabilitation of the factory and its ultimate reopening. Having met with Everglades, the Ministry is satisfied at the level of investments made by that entity in both field and factory operations, and in accordance with the divestment agreement. Specifically, some US$3.6 Million was spent on factory repairs, US$2.75 Million on cane expansion, translating into some 1,208 acres of new cane planted, as well as another US$1.4 Million in the expansion of the Hampden distillery. The entity is also involved in a number of community development projects involving support to a number of educational institutions.
Consistent with the terms of the divestment, Everglades Limited has been pursuing a strategy of complementing its farming activities with the development of a tourism product. This initiative converges with the significant prospects for tourism development in Trelawny with the Falmouth development. The Ministry is satisfied that this initiative will not compromise its core cane farming and sugar processing activities.
Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned investments have not been sufficient to effect the kind of turnaround in the efficiency of the factory operations, having regard to the state in which they took over the operations. It has therefore become necessary for Everglades to suspend factory operations for the 2010/2011 crop year to allow for a more comprehensive refitting of the factory.
In the circumstances, the Ministry’s preeminent consideration is to ensure that the farmers’ canes are reaped and processed in a manner that will not leave them any worse off. In that regard, the SIA has been in discussion with all interested factories in respect to the take off of the farmers’ crop. After discussions and analysis, the SIA has indicated that the offer from the SCJ Holdings Frome factory is the most favourable to the farmers, as the factory at Frome will process all the mature cane that can be harvested and delivered to the factory during the Frome cropping period of December 2010 to May 31, 2011. Importantly, the farmers will not be called upon to incur any additional transportation cost, beyond what would have been incurred in supplying the cane to Long Pond. The Frome factory, additionally, will be putting in the requisite personnel at Long Pond, as well as the necessary logistical arrangements to ensure that this process is properly managed.
In recognition of the difficulties faced by the workers of the Long Pond estate, associated with the proposed closure, the Sugar Transformation Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will provide a grant to vulnerable workers of the estate. This will cost the Ministry some J$13.5 Million.
In the meanwhile, the Ministry, along with SIA and the SCJ Holdings Limited, will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that Everglades Farms Limited continues to fulfill their obligations under the divestment agreement, as well as their commitment to reopen the factory for the 2011/2012 crop year. The Ministry is therefore urging the cane farmers and the adjoining communities to recognize the difficulties and appreciate the efforts to alleviate the situation. We also urge Everglades Farms Limited to more actively engage the stakeholders as they move forward with their plans.

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