Sugar Talks Have Not Stalled – Tufton


Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, is assuring that negotiations are proceeding for the divestment of the country’s sugar estates and assets.
“Up to this morning (Dec. 1) I was being consulted based on discussions that are taking place between Jamaica and Italy. It has been a constant flow of discussion and information gathering. The experts that came here are developing a model to determine the feasibility of the project. It’s a work in progress,” he told the House of Representatives yesterday.
Dr. Tufton was responding to questions from Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland and Opposition Spokesman on agriculture, Roger Clarke, regarding the current talks between the Government and the four shortlisted parties – Energen Development Limited; Fred M. Jones and Company/Seprod Limited; Everglades Farms Limited; and Italian firm Eridania Suisse.
Dr. Tufton explained that the discussions, which began on April 22, are partially completed, with the divestment of the St. Thomas Estate and factory to Fred M. Jones/Seprod, and the estates, factory and distillery at Long Pond and Hampden, to Everglades Farms Limited in July.
“Eridania has indicated that they will go to their board for a decision to invest (or not) and once that decision is made, they will let us know,” the Minister informed. He noted that while no deadline has been agreed, it is expected that the Government will have a response by the end of this year.
In May, the Government secured an agreement with Eridania to provide a US$15 million partial, pre-shipment facility to fund the 2009/2010 sugar cane crop. This is in exchange for a Government of Jamaica (GoJ) guarantee to supply a minimum of 79,000 tonnes of sugar.
The financing has allowed three estates – Frome, Monymusk and Bernard Lodge – to purchase necessary fertiliser, herbicide, irrigation and other field equipment and materials. This is in addition to 21 mill rollers and various other equipment for the Frome and Monymusk Factories in time to allow Frome to begin sugar production on December 7, and Monymusk, on December 18, Dr. Tufton outlined.
He said this has brought spin-off benefits including enabling the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings to plant 1,300 new hectares of cane, fix irrigation canals, roads, and other infrastructure, “and most importantly, put certainty into the starting dates for the factories, which is a source of comfort, and assistance to employees of SCJ Holdings, as well as the many cane farmers and contractors, who depend on the activities at these factories for their livelihood”.
Minister Tufton said that in the process, the quality of cane fields and the efficiency of the factories have been greatly improved, thereby enhancing the assets that the Government is seeking to divest.

JIS Social