Former frome sugar estate workers get grants


Approximately 200 of the 675 sugar workers formerly employed to Frome Estate, Westmoreland, have received grants under the government’s Social Mitigation Programme, which is supported by the European Union (EU).
According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, the programme aims to, among other things, help to cushion the social, economic and environmental impact caused by the transformation taking place in the sugar industry.
“Part of that transformation was the divestment of the government owned estates, but there was recognition from the very beginning that the divestment and all the changes that that would herald would invariably affect the sugar workers and the small cane farmers,” he stated.
“And so, in our country adaptation strategy, there was a very great emphasis on assisting those who might be displaced by the changes and, consistent with those objectives, we have a grant programme for those small farmers and displaced workers,” he explained.
He was chairing a ceremony to mark the handing over of approximately 20 grant certificates to displaced workers at the Frome Sugar Factory Staff Club on Thursday (October 28).
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton, pointed out that the divestment of the factories was necessary and, the resultant displacement of workers, was part of the critical sacrifices needed to maintain viability in the sugar industry.
He said that approximately 3,500 sugar workers from the former government owned estates will benefit from the mitigation grants.
Dr. Tufton stated that the event was to recognise persons who have laboured hard and have been part of the industry for a long time, but had to withdraw for its survival.
“And what that should show all of us is that, the government and its critical partners, in particular the European Union, did not just look at the industry and the need to dislocate or to separate some workers and that is the end of the story as it relates to those persons: It was important to us to find a way to operate on a separate parallel track, in the interest of those persons in those communities who have depended on the cane industry all these years,” he stated.
He explained that approximately $2.1 billion will be expended through the programme over a five year period in the first instance, with allocations in the areas of social services, economic empowerment and environmental issues.
He said that the persons benefitting from the grants should interpret it as an attempt by the government and the EU to get them to realign themselves within the communities, to look at potential alternatives, and to find a space for themselves so that they can maintain their own economic viability.
He emphasised that the government appreciated the level of understanding being shown by the people of Westmoreland towards the situation in the sugar industry.
EU Charge d’Affaires, Helen Jenkinson, pointed out that the grant support to the Jamaican sugar industry will continue to 2015.
“The European Union is pleased that it can assist the sugar industry in rising to the challenges that obviously have arisen from the liberalisation of the regime,” she stated.
She expressed the hope that the grants will help in the development of the individuals, communities and Jamaica as a whole.

JIS Social