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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton has assured sugar workers that all the necessary redundancy payments would be made on time, consistent with labour laws and the contracts signed between the Trade Unions and the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ).
In a statement to the House of Representatives, today (July 1), he pointed out that the Government expects that by the end of September, it will be in a position to formally hand over Government’s assets in the sugar industry to Brazilian company, Infinity Bio-Energy Limited.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding on June 27, signed a Heads of Agreement with Infinity Bio-Energy (IBE), for the divestment of 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 five 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, Government will retain a 25 per cent stake in the company for at least three years.
During the transition period, Dr. Tufton said, the SCJ will continue to manage the sugar entities to ensure out-of-crop repairs and that maintenance is carried out. Representatives from Infinity are expected to arrive in the island immediately to be a part of the transition team, which will be headed by Aubyn Hill, who headed the negotiations.
“It is essential to involve Infinity in the operations of the sugar industry at this time to ensure that the transition of ownership is smooth and that preparations for the next crop are done in a timely and orderly manner,” the Minister said.
He added that in regard to the objective of developing a sustainable sugar cane industry based on multiple products, “we were encouraged by the interest and proposal from the Brazilian company, given the extensive and undisputed experience of Brazil in the sugar cane business.”
The Minister pointed out that the South American country had produced 20 per cent of world sugar output (30 million tonnes) in 2006, as well as a third of world ethanol production or 16 billion litres in that same year.