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SAC spins off R&D division, adds foreign members to new outfit

Published:Wednesday | December 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
Karl James, chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean.

The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) has spun off its research and development arm, the West Indies Central Sugar Cane Breeding Station (WICSCBS), into a separate legal entity and has broadened its membership in a bid to shore up funding.

Three US-based sugar producers, Florida Crystals Corporation, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and US Sugar Corporation, as well as Central Romana of the Dominican Republic have been added to the membership of WICSCBS as of July 1, 2016.

They join Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica as contributors to the WICSCBS.

"We worked out an arrangement where they would participate in the running of the cane-breeding station, but all the assets remain owned by the SAC," said Karl James, chairman of the SAC.

"These new people will participate in the running of the cane-breeding station by injecting maybe about US$6 million to make sure it is properly funded," James said.

Funding for the WICSCBS is pulled from a cess on production from its members.

It is the WICSCBS' job to collect the flowering from all varieties of sugar cane, a function James described as the most expensive part of SAC's operation. The breeding station is one of the two oldest in the world.

" ... Now that we are down to four producers Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Guyana you have a reduction in the funding to carry it to the level (required)," said James.

Increasing the pool of members means more income through the cess, which means the WICSCBS can now recruit new staff and upgrade its equipment, the chairman said.

Based in Barbados, the cane-breeding division is tasked with collecting sugar cane seeds and creating varieties of the crop for clients of the SAC.

With the spin-off, the SAC, which owns the assets at the breeding facility, has agreed that WICSCBS can continue to utilise the resources.

"We can continue to get new varieties and also respond to requests from different cane-growing areas around the world, like South Africa, Brazil and Sudan," James said of the some markets served.

"We want to be in a position to always be able to respond," he added.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com