Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Courtney Cole, says the Government’s strategic plan for the multipurpose use of former sugar cane lands must be seen as part of the way forward for the sector.
He said that the plan, which includes partnerships with various stakeholders, will “bolster and propel this struggling industry towards a brighter future”.
Mr. Cole was speaking at the opening of the 81st annual conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST) at the RIU Hotel and Resort in Mammee Bay, St. Ann, on November 1.
He said that in spite of the ongoing challenges, the sector is one that commands attention and continues to add value to many lives.
“The sugar industry is one that is endowed with valuable resources. One key element must, therefore, be how we leverage these resources and create a better industry,” he noted.
Mr. Cole argued that the changes within the industry will require “transformational attention and focus”.
He said that one critical aspect of the way forward is the application of science and modern technology to promote increased levels of production and productivity.
“You, the technologists, know the right formulations that will lead to the best yields. You know the varieties most suited for cultivation, and it is essential that these technologies are placed in the hands of the farmers. As with other crops, such as coffee, it is only the proper agronomic practices that increase yields per hectare that will make any real impact on the farmer’s return on investment,” he highlighted.
He argued that the increased production will provide the volume of cane necessary for the manufacture of sugar and other products, and to supply CARICOM markets.
He noted that two-thirds of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) market for food grain sugars and white sugar is met from external sources.
“Some experts do believe that almost all of this could be provided regionally… . This is a situation that is begging for an integrated and collaborative solution…” he said.
Mr. Cole told the sugar stakeholders that “until we have achieved our goal of a modern and efficient cane society, and until we have successfully implemented the strategies to achieve that goal, then our work is not done and we must continue to articulate that vision that we have for a better industry as we seek to secure a viable future for Jamaica’s sugar cane industry”.
The two-day conference was held under the theme ‘Partnerships: The Best Options towards Rebuilding the Industry’.