JIS News

Prime Minister Bruce Golding this afternoon (June 27), signed a Heads of Agreement with the Brazilian firm, Infinity Bio-Energy (IBE), for the divestment of the Government’s assets in the sugar industry, paving the way for full divestment on September 30.
Under the agreement, the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) will still be managing the Government’s assets at the six sugar factories and the workers’ status will not change before the final transfer of assets on September 30. After the transfer of assets to Infinity, the Government will retain a 25 per cent stake in the company for at least three years.
The Prime Minister hailed the Heads of Agreement as the beginning of the process which would lead to the modernization of the industry and an increase in its value added contribution to the economy.
“What we are moving into is a cane-growing industry that is modernised and efficient and one that gives the best prospects for our workers,” the Prime Minister said at the signing ceremony at Jamaica House.
He reiterated the point that the Government takes the sugar industry seriously and highlighted the fact that the partnership with Infinity will strengthen Jamaica’s energy sector through co-generation and ethanol production. “This Government will make sure that this partnership with Infinity works in the best interest of the Jamaican farmers, stakeholders and the Jamaican people,” the Prime Minister assured.
President of the National Workers Union, Vincent Morrison, who spoke at the signing said: “I think we have a marriage and a good marriage, too. I love what I am hearing today. We are creating history this afternoon.” Mr. Morrison went on to say that the Jamaican farm workers needed “stability and commitment” and “we are very happy today.”
Chairman of the All-Island Cane Farmers Association, Allan Rickards, said he had been “watching the courtship closely,” adding that he was pleased that Infinity was the partner which the Government had chosen.
“I have been really impressed by them and I thank our team of negotiators for the wonderful job they have done. I can tell you cane farmers across this country are elated today. Our people are expectant and we are very happy,” he said.
For his part, the Chief Executive Officer of Infinity Bio-Energy, Sergio Thompson-Flores said the company would do everything to make the marriage successful. He said the staff has been very enthusiastic about working on the Jamaican project. “We want to make this into a complete success story,” he said.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton has held extensive consultations with the stakeholders in the sugar industry concerning the divestment process. He has addressed workers at all the factories and has also met with private estate owners and growers.
Dr. Tufton will make a statement on the matter in the House on Tuesday (July 1).
The government-owned sugar factories have racked up debts of $20 billion. The Heads of Agreement, which sets the stage for divestment on September 30, is aimed at converting a loss-making venture of the government into a successful venture with spin-offs for Jamaica’s energy sector as well as for the diversification of the industry.
Also present at the signing were, Dr. Tufton; Minister of Finance, Audley Shaw; Minister of Energy, Clive Millings; Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Patricia Sinclair-McCalla; and Chairman of the sugar negotiating team, Aubyn Hill as well as representatives of the law firm, Myers Fletcher and Gordon.