JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has said the Government remains committed to the sugar industry, which over the years, has played a critical role in the country’s development.
“The sugar cane industry, over an extended period of time, has been absolutely critical to many communities across Jamaica,” Dr. Tufton said, as he addressed the opening of the Ministry’s sugar industry retreat on (Jan. 9) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
He noted that the divestment of the industry, which will be concluded this year, must give careful thought to the context in which the industry has existed over the years, and its contribution to the country’s social and economic development.
“It’s important to recognize that this is not an industry that you could just stop tomorrow and pull out of the landscape. If that were to happen, it would mean major social and economic dislocation,” he stated.
According to the Minister, sugar remains Jamaica’s number one crop and is a major contributor in terms of foreign exchange earnings. “Somewhere in the region of 80 cents of every dollar from the sale of sugar is retained locally. Compared with tourism, the retention level is in the region of 40-50 per cent,” Dr. Tufton pointed out.
He noted however, that the industry is challenged, because production is not sufficient for it to successfully compete on the world market. It is also anticipated that by 2009, there will be a 36 per cent fall in prices in the European Union market and the industry needs an estimated $10 million over the next three years, to re-equip factories.
Dr. Tufton argued that despite these challenges, there is a market for sugar cane as it is a versatile crop with potential to be exploited once it is done efficiently.
He pointed out that Jamaica still enjoys a quota of 128,000 tonnes of sugar for export and a local market of 140,000 tonnes. The recently signed CARIFORUM/External Partnership Agreement (EPA) allots the region an additional 30,000 tonnes. “All of these issues, some offering better opportunities than others, must be placed on the table for dialogue in an attempt to understand where we want to go and how we are going to get there if we are going to compete within that environment,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Meanwhile, in her remarks, Charge D’Affaires of the European Commission in Jamaica, Helen Jenkinson, said the Jamaican Country Strategy for the Adaptation of the Sugar Industry is a clear sign that the country is willing and ready to fight for the survival of the sugar cane sector.
She noted that the EU, being the chief market for Jamaican raw sugar and the main development partner, had agreed from the start to help finance the implementation of the strategy, and that to this end, more than 82 million Euros have been earmarked for Jamaica for the 2006-2010 period. Five million Euros of this sum was made available to the country last year.