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Prime Minister Bruce Golding said the government hopes to complete privatization of its interests in the sugar industry by June of next year and pave the way for the kind of capital investments and modernization required to help the industry remain competitive, but which were beyond the reach of the government.
He was speaking today at a long service awards ceremony of the Sugar Industry Authority at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, University of the West Indies.
Mr. Golding said over the years the sugar industry had been buffeted by one crisis after another and that successive administrations should take responsibility for not responding rationally to developments in the industry. He pointed to a consistent decline in the acreage under production and the output of the industry in recent years, adding that decisive action was needed much earlier.
Prime Minister Golding said while there is uncertainty about the future of the industry and fear of its demise, new opportunities are available under the recently concluded Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EU). He said although the EU sugar protocol comes to an end in 2009, the EPA provides a four to five-year window of opportunity for the industry to become efficient and secure a niche in the marketplace. This Mr. Golding cautioned, must be technology driven and based on research.
“Efficiency has to be driven by technology and research and must include the efficient use of human resources,” the Prime Minister stated.
Against this background, Mr. Golding is suggesting the amalgamation of all government institutions involved in scientific research in order to provide an integrated approach to research and development. This he stressed would include research into the use of bio-fuels that would become increasingly important given rising oil prices.
In an apparent caution to other industries, Prime Minister Golding said what is happing to sugar was applicable to other sectors as they would have to improve efficiency, price competitiveness and the quality of their output in order to compete in the global marketplace. He said that as uncertain as the prospects were for the sugar industry, there is also the feeling that something exciting was about to happen. He said every effort was being made to ensure that at all times the interests of the country were secured.