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KINGSTON — In an effort to boost production and productivity, as well as increase investment in the sugar cane industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is proposing to inject some $1.7 billion into the Cane Expansion Fund by 2014.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Robert Montague, made the point as he addressed the 75th Annual Conference of the Jamaican Association of Sugar Technologists, at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort, Ocho Rios, St. Ann on Thursday (November 3).

Highlighting a number of ways in which the sugar cane industry could become more viable, and act as a springboard for the Jamaican economy, the Minister emphasized that at least 14,000 hectares of land must be brought back into production.

"Now that we have divested all the Government-owned sugar estates, our objective is to support the development of a commercially viable and sustainable sugar cane industry, which can contribute positively to the country’s economy,” he said.

He explained that this will require an increase in the sector’s production, productivity and efficiency. He also noted that cane production needs to be increased from the current 1.52m tonnes per annum to 3.5m tonnes per annum, as soon as practicable, but by 2015 the latest.

Mr. Montague said that increased production will provide the raw material for about 200,000 tonnes of raw sugar, over 100,000 tonnes of molasses for rum and energy, as well as bagasse for potential co-generation projects to supply electricity to the public grid.                                   

He said that the industry needs to achieve a minimum average yield of 80 tonnes per hectare per year, compared to the estimated 53.5 tonnes of cane per hectare achieved in the 2010/2011 crop. However, he stated, in order to increase production and productivity, the industry needed to, among other things, increase cane replanting rates from below 6 per cent to over 16 per cent per annum, and bring an additional 14,000 hectares of land back into production.                                                

"We must improve the quality of land preparation, cane material and harvesting equipment, as well as operations performed by contractors and farmers,” he said.

"One of the critical elements in the menu of improvements needed to increase output is the policy environment, within which the industry operates. The government is working to provide the policy environment, which will support private investors in the sugar sector,” he told members of the farming family.

He assured them that cane pricing, regulatory and institutional arrangements of the sector have been reviewed by the Wint Commission, and that Cabinet has approved recommendations which are now being implemented. He said that, additionally, in an effort to boost investment in the sector, over $643 million have been provided to support planting and replanting of cane, and installation of drip irrigation.

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is proposing to inject a total of $1.7 billion into the Cane Expansion Fund by 2014, to drive increased output in the sector… There are also huge opportunities for the sector in the area of value-added sugar products, beverages and spirits and even in renewable energy,” Mr. Montague assured.

The Minister and his team also toured the display booths showcasing the offerings of suppliers, manufacturing and sponsors of the cane industry.

 

By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter