Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Roger Clarke, says the government remains committed to the continued strengthening of Jamaica’s sugar industry through the implementation of several projects and initiatives. This, he notes, is in a bid to, among other things, position the industry to record incremental increased outputs, and safeguard the welfare of the sector’s workers.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by spirit distillers, J. Wray and Nephew Limited, for retiring employees, at Neil’s Auditorium in Mandeville, Manchester, on Friday (September 6), Mr. Clarke lamented that Jamaica’s sugar production is currently approximately 128,000 tonnes per annum, down from the 500,000 tonnes averaged in previous years. The Minister noted that Jamaica currently has guaranteed overseas markets for sugar, among these, countries in the European Union (EU). He, however, stressed the need for increased production from cane harvests to fulfill the quotas.
He pointed out, however, that the EU’s support is contingent on the implementation of a number of accompanying measures, which were negotiated with the government. These, he said, entailed privatization of state-owned sugar estates, and activities aimed at enhancing the welfare of employees, and communities adjacent to the properties, adding that “we have lived up, substantially, to that promise.”
Engagements to this end, Mr. Clarke informed, include: implementation of the $1 billion Sugar Barracks Relocation Project, currently underway. This initiative will see over 400 houses being developed for workers and their families living in units on the estates, which have fallen into disrepair. The project is being spearheaded by the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry’s Sugar Transformation Unit (STU) under the Sugar Area Development Programme (SADP), with funding provided by the EU Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol (AMSP).
The Agriculture Minister said some $1.7 billion has also been spent on a sugar cane replanting programme for farmers. He expressed satisfaction with the progress of this undertaking, pointing out that “the farmers are really making use of the resources, and (are) replanting.” Mr. Clarke advised that approximately $404 million is also being spent this year to repair roads serving the estates and smaller cane farms. Additionally, he said small farmers are also being assisted to procure equipment, among other inputs.
Complementing these activities, the Minister further informed, are repairs to and refurbishment of clinics, basic schools, and recreational areas serving cane farming communities. “So, we are well on our way and I expect, in due course, (that) we will get back to that level of production which is satisfactory. We have to move (production) incrementally up…because we have the markets…the demand is there,” Mr. Clarke said.
Some 26 retirees of J. Wray and Nephew Limited, who have worked in various capacities in the entity’s agriculture division, were honoured during Friday’s luncheon for up to 50 years of service.