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With the 2009/10 sugar cane crop set to begin in the first week of December, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, says that he is very pleased with the repair work being done at the Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland.
Following a tour and a meeting, on Friday (October 23), with the management of the factory and private cane farmers supplying the factory, the Minister told reporters that he is pleased with the efforts to ensure a successful crop.
“The reports on what I have seen indicate that Frome is on its way to doing much better than it did last year, in terms of sugar. We believe that we will be able to reap some 480,000 tonnes of cane, with about 45% of that coming from private cane-farmers and the rest from the estates,” he stated.
Pointing out that every effort is being made to meet the start-up date at all three Government owned factories – Frome, Moneymusk and Bernard Lodge – Dr. Tufton said that the preparation work is going very well.
He said that Frome is about 65% ready, adding that he has been informed by the management that in another month they will begin trials at that facility. He also expressed confidence that the private farmers will co-operate to ensure a successful crop.
The issue of illicit fires in the Westmoreland cane belt did not escape the attention of the Minister, however. He described it as a big challenge.
“Last year we had quite a bit of that, and I made it very clear to the farmers, and the critical stakeholders who were present (at the Frome meeting), that we have to do a lot more to discourage those fires,” he stated.
He said that a programme is being developed for implementation before the start of the next crop, to sensitise the sugar cane communities, to work with the private farmers, and to use law enforcement where necessary, to collectively try to minimise and, hopefully, eliminate the illicit fires at Frome.
“Outside of the rain, which we hope will give us a break, that would be the only threat I see for us not achieving the objectives that we have,” he predicted.
“We have a commitment to deliver 79,000 tonnes of sugar. We believe that we can, based on the new acreages that we have put on board in the fields, and the work that is going on now to prepare the factories to take off that cane,” he projected.
He said that the results will have a heavy bearing on what transpires in the industry after the 2009/10 crop.

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