Divestment of Sugar Factories Advanced – Tufton


Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said that plans for the divestment of the country’s five state-owned sugar factories are advanced, with the new private sector owner to be in place by June or July next year.
He informed that so far, a negotiating team has been put in place and “we are in full flight right now preparing the memorandum of understanding. We have short-listed the eight interested parties,” he informed.
The Minister, who was on a tour of the Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland last week, assured the sugar workers that their interests will be protected during the divestment process. He said that a framework will be established, which will not only ensure the viability of the industry but to protect workers’ rights, including securing housing solutions.
He informed further that while the sugar factories will be sold, government will not part with the more than 40,000 hectares of sugar lands across the island, as these will be leased. “The factories will be sold with about 50 hectares of the land around them.
Subsequently, government will have control over the lands, which will be used for sugar cane cultivation. These lands must remain the property of the government of Jamaica for the interest of the people of Jamaica,” the Minister stated.
Turing to the benefits to be derived from the divestment process, Dr. Tufton said that with the possible injection of capital, technology and diversification of production, “the country should see, in the short-term, a sugar cane industry that is more viable”.
Stating that the sugar industry has the potential to be profitable, Mr. Tufton said: “I don’t take the view that the sugar cane industry is all gloom and doom as some would suggest. I take the view that if it continues in the current state it is likely to end up that way, because it is unlikely that any government will be in a position to continuously subsidize the industry in the way it has over the years. We have to diversify. We must look at value-added activities and we must improve efficiency levels,” he stated.
He commended the management, staff and workers of the Frome Sugar Factory for “performing at the top of the productivity ladder” over the years and urged them to continue to give of their best for the good of the country.
The Frome Sugar Factory is projecting to produce 51,000 tons of sugar from approximately 625,000 tons of cane for the 2007 crop season.

JIS Social