JIS News

The Sugar Divestment Enterprise (SDE) has recommended that harvesting of the crop at Frome in Westmoreland be suspended for 10-15 days, to allow for the drying out of the fields and improvements in the quality of the cane supplied to the factory.
The factory will continue receiving cane up until midday Thursday (January 7), after which burning will cease and the suspension will begin.
The factory will go into “rest mode” after that batch of cane is processed, until harvesting can begin again, General Manager of Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings, John Gayle, told JIS News. The suspension is due to last month’s persistent rains in cane growing areas.
In a release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries on Wednesday (January 6), the SDE said it was anticipated that December would have been dry, or that the rains would have subsided by mid-December, and that the harvesting of early maturing varieties of cane would allow for the rapid ripening of the fields.
These expectations did not materialise however, and the rains continued up to the end of December.
“This unexpected high rainfall has resulted in the quality of the canes remaining below acceptable levels,” the release stated. To mitigate the situation, the SDE has slowed down the crop but, as a result, expenditure is increasing and efficiency targets, such as mill extraction, are below target.
The SDE, the trading arm of SCJ Holdings, has proposed strategies to mitigate the impact of the temporary shutdown on employees.
“The timing of this action would ensure that workers do not have a blank (no pay) pay week,” the company said.
Mr. Gayle told JIS News that it was the cane farmers who voted for the suspension, based on the fact that they have been receiving lower prices for their yields due to the low sucrose content of the canes. Fields are also being damaged by harvesting equipment, he said.
However, he asserted that a temporary suspension of the crop would not affect the supply of sugar to local markets, or exports to Italian firm Eridania Suisse.
The Government last year secured an agreement with Eridania to provide a US$15 million partial, pre-shipment facility to fund the 2009/2010 crop. This was in exchange for a Government guarantee to supply a minimum of 79,000 tonnes of sugar. The first shipment under this agreement is slated to leave Jamaica February 27-28. SDE says that, even with the suspension, the crop will still be completed within the budgeted timetable.
On Monday (January 4), the SDE began consultations with key Frome stakeholders, including employees, contractors, the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), cane growers, trade unions, harvesting committee and marketers.

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