JIS News

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has emphasised the importance of proper and effective management in the local sugar industry, in order to enable the country to reap maximum benefits.
Speaking at the launch of the Government’s $2.1 billion European Union (EU) funded Sugar Workers’ Economic Support Programme, at the Bernard Lodge sugar factory, St. Catherine, on March 10, Dr. Tufton noted that sugar cane was “one of the most versatile crops with tremendous potentials.”
“But those potentials can only be realised if you add human capacity, management, and intellectual capacity to the production and processing of sugar cane. The truth however, is that over a long period of time, we in Jamaica have, essentially, taken the sugar cane for granted. We have tried to get as much as we can out of it and we have put back very little in its development,” the Minister said.
He cited the country’s misfortune of finding itself at the “lowest possible end of the production scale,” adding that the country was “forced” to draw the line, due to global developments.
“Twenty years ago, we should have recognised that as good as the sugar cane has been to us, we should have been a lot more committed to the development of the industry. Where we are now as a people and a country is, in the proverbial term, ‘the chickens have come home to roost’ or ‘the sugar has come home to haunt us’,” Dr. Tufton said.
The Minister said there is need to get the “right” dynamics and model for the sector, to position and enable it to yield maximum dividends for Jamaica, “as it has done in so many other countries across the world.” These variables, he shared, include increasing productivity levels, while reducing costs. He also stressed that local stakeholders would have to compete with other cane growers globally, if the crop is to survive.
“In the past, we didn’t have to do that, because we could depend on the good gesture of our former colonial masters, who allowed us levels of guarantees in what could be termed, an artificial marketplace and artificial agreements; so we got guaranteed markets for many years. Now we are in a situation where we have no choice, as those markets are no longer guaranteed, and it’s either we adjust our model and adjust our approach, or we shut down the industry, because nobody is going to give us a free ride. We have to find our way, we have to position ourselves, we have to create our own competitiveness and generate our returns in our interest,” the Minister argued.
The Sugar Workers’ Economic Support Programme is an initiative brokered by the government, EU and stakeholders, which earmarks grant funding to some 4,600 sugar workers displaced by the transformation exercise being undertaken in the sector by the administration, as well as communities within the sugar cane belt.
The transformation results from the EU’s reformation of their sugar regime over the last five years, leading to a 30 per cent reduction in EU member states’ payments to Jamaica for sugar exports.
The initiative will see some $800 million being provided for grant funding of some $170,000 to each of 4,600 persons, to facilitate their engagement in alternative income generating activities.
Some 300 of 600 persons slated to receive grants this year, have already received disbursements, with another 2,500 allocations scheduled for 2011. The EU’s funding will also be used to undertake infrastructural and environmental improvements in communities within the sugar cane belt over the next five years.

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