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Jamaica not ready for ACP sugar challenge

Published:Monday | December 29, 2014 | 12:00 AMMark Titus

Reforms to the European Union's common agricultural policy, approved in March last year, will result in the abolition of sugar quotas come 2017.

That will bring an end to the preferential treatment that African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar producers have been enjoying since 1975.

The end date was initially set for 2015, but an extension of two years was granted in a split decision among member states after some countries sought additional time for the sector to adjust.

Under the new regime, it will mean greater competition for Jamaica from lower-cost producers, but, while Dr Wu Huaixiang, the outgoing chief executive officer of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC), sees a lucrative market waiting in his homeland, China, and the continent of Africa, he is concerned that local production, overall, might struggle to compete.

"Jamaica's sugar industry can reach great heights, but the challenges remain," said Wu. "... The biggest challenge for me is the post-2017 period when we will have to compete with other ACP countries for sugar markets."

Take lead in region

He added: "As a country, Jamaica is not doing enough to address this challenge. I also think the regional sugar market can be invigorated and developed, but Jamaica, or some other country, has to take the lead ... . You can have your own refinery, so you can have your own refined sugar and have your own sugar market. It's the only way I see us surviving the new era because if you open the market to competition, to outside contest, from international countries, I don't think you have any hope to win."

Continued Wu: "If you have your own market, a refinery for brown sugar, you can have a productive market and can protect your farmers and the whole sugar industry, but I am really concerned. As I have said before, there needs to be a greater understanding by all that this is a business, and as such, must be operated in a manner so that everyone involved benefits ... . This will require a process, but this will need the cooperation of everyone.