Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Much optimism for new sugar crop year

Published:Friday | December 23, 2016 | 12:00 AMMark Titus

Western Bureau:

Local sugar manufacturers are projecting an output of approximately 100,000 tonnes of sugar from the five factories that will be in operation for the 2016-2017 crop year.

"The production that we have projected is just under 100,000 tonnes of sugar," Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS), told The Gleaner yesterday.

"That is enough to deal with the Tate and Lyle shortfall from last crop, supply the local market, and satisfy the current US quota."

The United Kingdom-based sugar refiner Tate & Lyle agreed to defer a portion of the 48,000 tonnes supply arrangement with JCPS to the current season after a problem-plagued crop last year, which resulted in only 82,855 tonnes of sugar being produced from 1.12 million tonnes of cane.

The 2016-2017 crop year started on December 12 at the Frome Sugar Factory, in Westmoreland, which is owned by the Chinese firm Pan Caribbean Sugar Company. The projection is that the estate will be producing 28,000 tonnes of the sweetener.

However, while the Chinese have high hopes for Frome, they have no interest in operating its Monymusk facility, which they also own. That factory will be managed by the John Gayle-led Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings Limited until a new owner or a joint venture partner has been identified. The factory will be targeting 15,000 tonnes of sugar.

Golden Grove factory, in St Thomas, will get things started on December 29 and is looking to produce 10,000 tonnes of sugar to satisfy the demand of its clients; while Worthy Park is currently installing facilities for value added from the 24,000 tonnes it is likely to make.

Long Pond, in Trelawny, will not participate in this crop year, but the St Elizabeth-based Appleton Estate will get things started in the first week of January. Last year, Appleton remained closed due to an injunction by commercial fish producer Algix Jamaica Limited. The legal wrangling continues in the courts, but, according to James, this will no longer affect the factory's operation.

New EU regime

It should be noted that come October 2017, the European Union will be introducing a brand-new regime, and while the details of the new arrangement are still unknown, it is expected that the present limit on production by beet sugar producers will be lifted, reducing the demand for the sweetener from ACP countries.

"What happened in local sugar production in 2015-2016 was rock bottom. From here on, it has to be all the way up, because things are expected to become more competitive under the expected new regime," said James.

"We need to look at our local market and sell as much as possible to those consumers," James said.

"We also need to be selling more sugar - especially plantation white and liquid sugar - to the producing sector.

"Jamaica has to start producing sugar in a manner that it can also take advantage of the Caribbean market with products such as packaged sugar," added James.