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Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has explained that the Sugar Enterprise Team has the flexibility and authority of Cabinet to accommodate any divestment proposal, within reason, in the interest of preserving the sugar industry, while ensuring that the take off of the current crop, is secured.
Cabinet has approved a net funding of $1.4 billion to take off the current crop at state-owned sugar estates, between now and the end of the budget year, inclusive of interest charges and overdraft facilities.
Income from sugar this year is expected to be $4.2 billion, while the take off cost is approximately $4 billion, which will facilitate a positive cash-flow of $200 million.
The $1.4 billion is being sought from the Ministry of Finance to fund the overdraft facility that is presently in place, Chairman of the Sugar Company of Jamaica, Robert Levy, explained at a post-Cabinet press briefing, held at Jamaica House, on February 4.
Meanwhile, approval has been given for continuation of the opening of the respective Estates, except for Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine. Frome (Westmoreland), which is currently in operation, began crop take off on January 5; St. Thomas will begin on February 12; Moneymusk (Clarendon), on February 10; and Long Pond (Trelawny), during the first week in March. In the case of Bernard Lodge, Dr. Tufton explained that the cane would be transported to either Worthy Park, a privately operated facility, or to Moneymusk.
“The challenge with Bernard Lodge is that, there is not enough raw material in the field, in order to make that factory produce viably.the truth is that all the estates have that challenge, but in the case of Bernard Lodge, the choice was easier, because of the vicinity of the cane to Worthy Park and Moneymusk, and the decision was taken that instead of losing money on processing at Bernard Lodge, we would save more by sending the cane either to Worthy Park or Moneymusk,” the Minister outlined.
The take off process involves reaping for milling and processing into the various sugar byproducts.