Jamaican sugar sector concerned about manufacturers' failure to meet preseason projections
The 2014-15 sugar crop year is not proving to be as sweet as some stakeholders in the local industry had anticipated as all manufacturers, except for the Worthy Park Estate in St Catherine, are failing to meet their preseason projections.
This is in contrast to popular sentiments at the start of the season when it was widely felt that despite a late start to the season, local manufacturers would match, or surpass, the 154,000 tonnes of sugar produced last year. That figure was almost 26,000 tonnes more than the 128,196 tonnes produced the previous year.
"I am very disappointed and I am very concerned ... ," said Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS), the marketing agent of the Sugar Industry Authority. "We have had to revise our projected output (from 154,000) to 146,000 tonnes for the 2014-2015 crop year.
According to James, last year's drought and the recent rainfall during the time of harvest was a "bad combination" for the sector, affecting sugar quality and factory efficiency.
"... We really wanted to maximise the earnings on this crop, seeing that it is our final year on our supply deal with Tate & Lyle," said James. "My hope is that the rain we are having now will result in a more improved crop for 2015-2016."
The disappointment is understandable as last year, three factories - Appleton Estate (33,600 tonnes), Worthy Park (27,000 tonnes), and Golden Grove (19,300 tonnes) - recorded their highest-ever productions.
The positives of last year created an expectation that the local sector was poised for more impressive results, especially with reforms to the European Union's common agricultural policy looming.
However, of the local stakeholders, only Worthy Park Estate realised its projected 25,000 tonnes. Appleton Estate could only muster a disappointing 26,475 tonnes, while the Seprod-owned Golden Grove had one of the biggest fall-offs, with a mere 15,747 tonnes. Pan Caribbean Sugar Company's Frome and Monymusk Estates have a combined 48,158 tonnes of their projected 61 tonnes, with a few days to go. Long Pond Estate fell short of matching last year's 11,300 tonnes by 177 tonnes.
According to James, to date, the JCPS has exported 11,000 tonnes of sugar to the US, and has already sent 46,000 tonnes of the required 70,000 tonnes to Tate & Lyle to close the three years supply deal with the British refiner.
The changes to the European Union policy are expected to result in the abolition of sugar quotas come 2017, ending the preferential treatment that African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar producers like Jamaica have been enjoying since 1975.
Some experts believe Jamaica will not be able to compete on the world market.