Saturday, April 13, 2024

Call to modernise Jamaica’s sugar cane industry

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Kingston – Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining, Franklyn Witter, says the sugar industry in Jamaica requires an overhaul that must be rooted in a complete modernisation strategy.

“Some of the activities taking place under the modernisation strategy include a review of key legislation that supports the operation of the sugar industry,” Witter told the 86th annual conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST).

“In this case, it is the Sugar Industry Control Act. As it stands, revision of the Act, which is 90 per cent complete, is being done to ensure its relevance and currency to effectively address current industry challenges,” he added.

Witter said the infusion of new cutting-edge technology and adoption of global best-practices for improved efficiency, to which increased focus on automation is a key aspect, is another ongoing activity, as also is the development and creation of a multi-product industry for increased profitability and sustained viability.

“To shed more light on what I mean by multi-product industry and what it means concerning the sugar industry, it is no longer viable to rely on the sale of raw sugar and its by-product, molasses, as an economic model in this current competitive environment.

“We have to find creative ways to grow the industry, and to do this we have to diversify the outputs created by the sugar industry,” Witter said, adding “for us to gain a viable revenue generation mechanism and mitigate our risks, we need to explore different commercially viable products, such as ethanol production, plantation white or liquid sugar, biodegradable plastic products, waxes, gums and other products”.

Witter told the JAST conference that like all industries, the sugar industry has its fair share of challenges and issues that impact its income-earning potential.

These challenges include, among other things, issues surrounding the direct and indirect competition from refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes, which often are duty-free, and a limited opportunity for viable export markets.

In his address, the Acting Chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association, Dr Horace Charoo, said that although the price for sugar is the highest it has ever been and export prospects are bright, it pained him as a cane farmer that there is not enough raw material.

Sugar production decreased from 515 thousand tonnes in 1965 to 186 thousand tonnes in 1984 to 48 thousand tonnes in 2022. Two mills remain in Jamaica, both making raw sugar. Jamaica produced 42 thousand tonnes of sugar for the 2021/22 season. (CMC)

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