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Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton is forecasting a brighter outlook for the sugar industry, given the slew of changes that are taking place in the sector.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 72nd Annual Conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST) at the Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios St. Ann on Thursday, November 5, Dr. Tufton pointed to a number of positive changes that have been implemented this year.
He noted the alignment of the workers-to-estate ratio; the establishment of establishing two companies to streamline industry debt, and to manage the estates in a viable way; the planting of over 2,500 acres of new cane; and the sale of two estates, thus reducing the burden on the public purse.
“All of that combined hopefully will mean that we will see greater levels of productivity at the end of this crop, better functioning facilities and a chance that an analyst looking on will say, sugarcane and sugar might be profitable after all. I believe this year, based on what has happened there is that possibility,” he told the audience.
While the dynamics of the world sugar market is changing he added, there still exists opportunities such as the Economic Partnership Agreement, with Europe which allows for greater opportunities for value-added products. The Minister pointed out that with the price of sugar now at an all-time high in Europe and other parts of the world, these opportunities are even greater.
Dr. Tufton reiterated that the Government is committed to the sugar industry and has had to take steps that could best be considered “tough love”.
“If sugarcane is not viewed as a multi-faceted commodity that possesses not only the qualities to be traded as a commodity but as a critical value-added product it is going to be challenged by others who are offering more than what we are accustomed to offering in the marketplace,” he said.
Dr. Tufton stressed that the industry cannot become viable if it depends on taxpayers to continue to provide subsidies, or if the strategy pursued is dependent on only the production and sale of the basic product. “That mentality has to be abandoned and the sooner we do that the better,” he asserted.
The Minister urged the sugar technologists to assist the Government in its thrust, and to do even more to ensure that the industry becomes, and remains viable.
The Sugar Technologists 2-day Annual General Meeting and Conference was held under the theme ‘Jamaica’s Sugar Cane Industry beyond 2009’.

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