MINISTER OF Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke has said local producers could be supplying sugar to the domestic market by 2015.
"I am satisfied to a certain extent with some of the things I see happening, and I imagine that, if we continue in this trajectory, in another three years we should be up to our optimum and be able to satisfy our own demand while meeting our overseas obligations," Clarke said in an interview with The Gleaner last Friday.
According to the government minister, himself a cane farmer, in all the factories, except for Frome in Westmoreland, the crop year is off to a solid start and indicators are pointing to a more improved performance over the previous season. Jamaica imports some 60,000 tonnes of brown sugar annually, mainly from other producing countries in the region, to satisfy local demand. Another 70,000 tonnes of the refined sweetener is required to meet the demands of processors.
Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS), the marketing arm of the Sugar Industry Authority, agreed in part with the minister's projection. "In terms of the domestic market, I believe that we can fully supply brown sugar by next year," he said, "but supplying the refined part will depend on when Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) establishes their refinery."
PCSC is the Jamaican subsidiary of Complant International which purchased the Frome, Bernard Lodge and Monymusk factories for US$9 million or J$774 million in 2010, and signed a memorandum which will give the new operators ownership of 25 to 50 acres of the land immediately surrounding each facility. The company also leased some 30,000 hectares of cane lands for US$35 (J$3,010) per hectare per annum for a period of 50 years, renewable for another 25 years.
Francis He, chief executive officer of PCSC told The Gleaner last year that Monymusk would be home to the firm's refinery, to be established on completion of the new factory to be built at the Clarendon facility. While he did not provide a timeline for this to happen, The Gleaner understands that the Chinese firm is moving to open the refinery by 2016.
Last year, Jamaican producers supplied 22,500 tonnes of the brown sugar required by the domestic market while importing the remainder from Colombia. According to James, the industry's projection for this year (2011/2012 crop year) calls for a supply close to 40,000 tonnes from local producers, with the remainder to be imported, likely from Guyana.
At the start of the new year, local consumers were greeted with a $200 reduction in the price of a 110-pound bag of sugar, which JCPS attributed to a smooth start to the crop year, which resulted in well over 6,000 tonnes of sugar being produced with more than 2,000 tonnes being provided for the domestic market.
James explained at the time that, with the industry being able to supply local demand, Jamaica would be shielded from the effects of rising prices on the world pricing market, which is fuelled by speculation. Quizzed as to why this is not done consistently, the JCPS head said only three factories currently have bagging facilities.