JIS News

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, has praised the sugar industry stakeholders for the level of maturity being shown towards the Government’s efforts to transform the sector into a viable and sustainable one.
He said that the administration has had to take some tough decisions on the industry’s future against the background of changing global developments and “all the critical stakeholders. certainly over the last couple of years when I have had the privilege of trying to lead this process, have demonstrated an understanding of where we are and where we need to go.”
“We have not seen any major demonstration, even though we have had to take some very radical positions, which have seen some displacement in the industry. What it says to me is that we are maturing, and it’s long overdue,” Dr. Tufton stated at Wednesday’s (March 10) launch of the Government’s $2.1 billion Sugar Workers’ Economic Support Programme at Bernard Lodge Sugar Estate, St. Catherine.
According to Dr. Tufton, the transformation programme is grounded in growing better quality cane and using that cane to produce a range of crops, molasses, provide co-generation for electricity and other similar by-products, which will “allow us to make a return (and) be sustainable, without depending on others to provide us with preferential incentives.”
He commended the stakeholders for their cooperation in facilitating the process, including factory workers, cane farmers, various agencies, and the sector’s management.
“This crop year represents, for of the most harmonious in terms of stakeholders, who are directly involved in the production and manufacturing of sugarcane-related products,” he stated.
“If you look at estates like Frome (in Westmoreland), in terms of illicit fires, we have had a small fraction of what was the case in past years. If you look at the starting up of the crop, in terms of processing, taking (cane) out of the field, it has gone fairly well and on time, in keeping with the objectives that have been set,” Dr. Tufton added, noting that production has expanded.
Funded by the European Union (EU), the Sugar Workers’ Economic Support Programme will provide $800 million in grant aid for some 4,600 displaced workers, each of whom will receive $170,000 over the next 18 months, to assist in undertaking alternative income generating activities.
A total of 600 persons are slated to receive grants this year, with disbursements already made to 300 persons. Another 2,500 allocations are scheduled for 2011. The EU’s funding will also be used to undertake infrastructural and environmental improvements in communities in the sugar cane belt over the next five years.
Dr. Tufton urged the beneficiaries to dispel the notion that it was the “end of the road” for them, pointing out that the process represented a “new beginning” in ensuring that they and their communities continue to benefit from the industry.

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