Sunday, April 14, 2024

Removing vital sugar industry from closure


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Once sugar was the so-called “king” among natural resource industries in the Caribbean region, and particularly in CARICOM states like Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.
It has been a major foreign exchange earner and source of employment.
Then came the hard times when cutbacks in production for exports and eventually closures, became the norm, with Guyana’s production dominance still holding comparatively strong – until recent years with projections now pointing to a worrying decline and talk of “alternatives”.
Currently, there are reports of the
once powerful Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) engaging in informal discussions among its members on the challenges of declining production and even “near-collapse” that faces the region’s sugar industry.
However, for the Caribbean public, the workers in the industry and specifically thousands in states like Guyana and Jamaica, it must be quite upsetting not to benefit from informed discussions, either at state or corporate level, geared towards urgent reforms to save livelihoods, earn foreign exchange or avoid spending millions on ever-rising food import bills for most Caribbean countries
Perhaps in the Caribbean Community, Belize is still doing reasonably well from its sugar sector with the scheme of “fair trade sales” that enables production of good quality sugar to earn a premium among farmers who sell their canes to the factory owned by the United States multinational, American Sugar Refiners (ASR) .
In Jamaica, on the other hand, investment in factories by China does not seem to be getting off the ground and one wonders if they are waiting for the long haul to do heavily mechanised operations. But this seems unlikely as the world sugar price has already started to drop and by 2017, with expectations of the European Union’s completely liberalised policy, including scuttling of quotas on beet sugar.
Informed watchers of the Caribbean’s sugar industry are worried over the absence of any serious effort to address improved productivity, greater efficiency
in factories or competently managed field cultivations with a view to increasing the ratios of cane to sugar. Some disillusioned Caribbean experts feel that it is simply shameful that our political leaders, sugar producers and exporters located cross this region cannot become involved in mobilising human resources to help craft strategies for removal of the region’s sugar industry from what is increasingly being recognised as “death’s doorstep”.


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