JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, has called on cane farmers to maximize their production of sugar cane, in order for the industry to survive future cuts in the price of sugar by the European Union (EU).
Speaking at the launch of the 13th renewal of the annual cane cutters competition, yesterday (February 16), at the Guardian Life Head office in Kingston, Minister Clarke said cane farmers should focus on areas where they could “maximize yields and concentrate on them”.
He suggested that farmers in the sector should begin to look at areas in the industry that were doing well and replicate the methods in other ailing areas.
“Rationalization is needed where necessary to take advantage of the economies of scale,” Mr. Clarke emphasised.
Citing the intention by the European Union (EU) to cut the price of sugar, which would leave the sugar industries in the region struggling to compete with other sugar producing countries, Minister Clarke noted that several measures were being thought of and were being used to change the intended direction of the EU. However, the industry players needed to play their part to save the industry, he argued.
“We are putting a good case forward and much is being done by our Diaspora to lobby Parliamentarians overseas,” he informed. The Minister expressed confidence that something would be done to change the daunting prospect.
“The challenges are enormous and the next few years are going to be daunting. It is going to take the hand of everyone to save the industry,” he said. Mr. Clarke pointed out that the intended price cuts had sent shock waves through the sugar industry and various by-products would have to be sought to increase the viability of the industry. He stressed, however, that these new by-products would depend on the efficient production of cane.
“The way to make money is to maximize your raw material,” the Minister said. He emphasised that all the stakeholders in the industry needed to play their part to ensure the industry remained viable.
“We must understand the importance of the sugar industry; our backs are against the wall now. We are going to have to survive by pulling up ourselves and do what we have to do efficiently,” Mr. Clarke said.
The Minister congratulated the cane cutters for their sterling efforts during past competitions, and urged the need to focus more on them, as their work was very important. “It is a time when we give true recognition to the backbone of the industry. It is not easy and their work is important,” he said. Chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers’ Association (AIJCFA), Allan Rickards gave the association’s full support to the Ministry’s plans to resuscitate the industry, and noted the need for the return to green cane harvesting.
The Chairman also noted the need for emphasis to be placed on increasing the number of cane cutters in the industry to manually harvest green cane and to ensure efficiency of harvesting. “We are going to have to, over the next year or two, begin a serious programme to revolutionize the whole business of hand harvesting of cane,” he said.
He commended all who have been involved in the staging of the competition from its inception, and noted that this year’s event marked the start of a second phase in the on-going effort to improve the harvesting of cane, and a renewed commitment to improve the industry.
This year’s competition will see the added sponsorship of two new entities, Newport-Fersan (Jamaica) Limited, a new fertilizer company, and J. B. Rums (Lascelles). Other sponsors include Motor Sales and Service Company Limited, the Sugar Company of Jamaica Limited, the Sugar Industry Authority, and Guardian Life Limited.

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