JIS News

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson has said that the government, over the last five years had undertaken a number of initiatives to effect necessary changes in the sugar industry.
Mr. Patterson who was responding to questions submitted by Opposition Leader Bruce Golding regarding the status of the industry in the House of Representatives yesterday (July 19), mentioned that the government was constantly involved in dialogue with stakeholders, on the need to improve efficiency and productivity at both the factory and field levels in order to become more competitive and thus give the industry a more than reasonable chance to survive in the new environment.
He also highlighted the pursuance of diplomatic initiatives for the European Commission to live up to its agreement with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar producers, “to have the terms of the adjustments moderated to allow our internal restructuring to be implemented and to ensure that the promised financial support is adequate and timely to enable restructuring in keeping with the fair and equitable commitment that is made to the ACP by their treaty obligations”.
Further he said, government undertook work to determine the best configuration for the local industry, in terms of tonnage of sugar to be produced and for what markets, type and alternative cane-based products, and the location of the production of each of these categories. This is in addition to providing loan financing to farmers for replanting.
Mr. Patterson said also, that the Sugar Company of Jamaica, which owned the majority of sugar factories, had embarked on a programme to improve the efficiency of factory operations.
“At the field level, considerable effort has been put into increasing the productivity of the hectares under its control. Emphasis has been placed on improving agronomy to encompass land preparation, weed control, fertilisation and water management,” he explained, adding that considerable investments had also been made in the upgrading of irrigation systems. “Some less-productive lands were also phased out of production, with the concentration being on more fertile lands,” he added.
Prime Minister Patterson pointed out that approximately 8,350 hectares of land were planted between 2001 and 2004 and another 3,000 hectares were to be planted during this year. Meanwhile, new cane knives and automatic cane feed controls have been installed at all factories, while the retubing of most boilers and the overhaul of forced draft fans have been undertaken, in order to improve steam generation.
Mr. Patterson further informed, that the owners of the island’s two private entities, with whom the government has been in frequent dialogue, had also made significant progress in the modernisation of their factories resulting in a general increase in operational efficiency.
“One of the entities consistently produces at the lowest Total Cane/Total Sugar (TC/TS) ratio and records high factory recovery indices. At the field level, they continue to improve productivity through, among other things, the introduction of new irrigation and harvesting equipment and improved agronomic practices. These measures have resulted in improved production costs,” he told the House.
The Prime Minister noted that while targets in terms of volume of production and costs were still not at the desired level, “we have to redouble our efforts to achieve them.” He noted that the situation had been exacerbated by Hurricane Ivan followed by a severe drought, which not only affected the last crop but would have some lingering effects on the next one.