Approximately 561 former sugar workers in Trelawny were presented with grant funding certificates, under the Government of Jamaica/European Union (EU) displaced sugar workers Economic Mitigation Programme on Wednesday February 23.
The list included 135 workers recently laid off by existing private sector managers of the production facilities within the parish. The assistance programme is being funded by the EU, through its Accompanying Measures facility, which will see grant funding flowing to Jamaica and other sugar exporting countries up to 2015.
Approximately $17.5 billion has been earmarked for Jamaica for the 2006 to 2013 period, of which over $8 billion has already been disbursed in tranches. Project Manager with the EU Delegation, Pierre-luc Vanhaeverbeke, said another $1.8 billion will be disbursed to Jamaica by the end of the year.
Addressing the ceremony to hand out the grant certificates at the Glistening Waters Restaurant, Falmouth, Trelawny, on Wednesday (February 23), Mr. Vanhaeverbeke described the sugar industry as a vital part of Jamaica’s history.
“It continues to play a major role in the economy and could play an even more important role, not least through its contribution to alternative sources of energy,” he said.
He noted that it was important for the sugar industry to adapt to changing circumstances and demands, to be able to thrive and expand, adding that the EU is playing its part to ensure that this happens.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, who handed out some of the certificates, explained that the programme is geared at ensuring that any dislocation occurring, because of the divestment process, takes place in a manner that recognizes the need of all the displaced workers to find an economic livelihood and to survive.
He said that the assistance programme marked the continuation of a process of the transformation, to move the sugar industry from a dependent one to a profitable entity.
“In a sense, it is bitter sweet because it represents some amount of separation, in that some of you are being asked, with some support, to adjust your economic activity…away from growing cane or working in the factories, towards something else,” he stated.
He added that the government is acting in a manner that is sensitive to the fact that most of the workers have spent almost their whole lives in the industry, thus the grant awards to assist in the adjustment process.
“You may chose to go into businesses that may end up supplying in one way, shape or form, either directly to the factories or the facilities, or persons who are directly engaged in the facilities,” he advised the beneficiaries.
The Minister lauded the EU for their contribution to the transformation process taking place within the sugar industry.
CONTACT: BRYAN MILLER
JIS REGIONAL OFFICE