JIS News

Illicit burning of sugarcane continues to be a problem for the Sugar Company of Jamaica’s (SCJ) Frome division in Westmoreland, with more than 50,000 tons of sugarcane lost since the start of the 2006/2007 crop at a cost of about $75 million.
Vice President of Operations in the Frome Division, Aston Smith, told JIS News that some 200 fires had occurred from the burning of cane fields and the problem was wreaking havoc on the industry in general and in Westmoreland in particular. “Over the last five years, we have seen canes burned in excess of one million tons,” he lamented.
“For the past two years, for example, we have had over 1,500 fires burning over 450,000 tons of cane, and when you look in terms of a cane crop producing about 600,000 tons of cane, when you burn 400,000 tons, that is approximately 75 per cent of the cane, which is burnt illicitly. This will ultimately serve to do major damage if not destroy the industry in this part of the island”, he added.
He noted further that the money lost was “not sustainable for this type of industry”.
Mr. Smith informed that several initiatives were being employed to address the problem and these included educating the populace in the area about the negative effects of these fires.
Cane farmers usually burn fields to make it easier for reaping but Mr. Smith said that this habit only leads to an over supply of sugar cane to the factories. He noted that Frome factory required about 5,500 to 6,000 tons of cane per day for its operations, and on Friday (Jan. 26), there was 9,000 tons of cane on the ground of which 6,000 tons was burnt illicitly.
“When the burning is so extensive, it creates major problems at the factory, as well as for the farmers,” he stated, pointing out that the more than 2,000 farmers that supply the Frome factory stood to lose money from the stale and immature cane that was delivered to the factory because of illicit burning.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, recently announced that the police and the military would be brought into the mix to monitor the cane belt of Westmoreland with a view to prosecuting persons caught lighting cane fields illicitly.
He told JIS News that aerial surveillance would be incorporated in the policing measures soon.