Data support sugar leakage claim, says Samuda
Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Karl Samuda, who came under fire from manufacturers earlier this year when he claimed that imported sugar was leaking into the local domestic market, said the Government now has proof, thanks to data from the Customs department.
Speaking yesterday on the first of the two-day Jamaica Association of Sugar Technolo-gists conference at the Riu Hotel and Resorts in Mammee Bay, St Ann, the minister also revealed that duty was only being paid on 300 tonnes of refined sugar from the total of 10,000 tonnes imported annually.
"We have introduced a rather controversial regulation on protection of our consumers and our farmers, where it is now a matter of fact that there has been leakage into the supermarkets of imports intended for production, and I am talking about refined sugar," said Samuda, who gave the keynote address at the conference.
According to the minister, when the debate was raging about his claim of imported sugar entering the domestic market, the Government examined the data at the Customs department and found the information needed to back up his claim.
"It is estimated that our total requirement for imported white sugar is somewhere in the region of 10,000 tonnes for retail per annum, so when the controversy was raging, we went to the data and did a comprehensive examination at the Customs department on how many tonnes of sugar was imported and the attracted duty," said Samuda. "Only 300 tonnes of 10,000 tonnes pay duty."
He asked, "Where the rest come from to be in the market place? There is no question that someone, or some group, made an awful lot of money from this trade."
... Why has no arrest been made? - JMA president
Key stakeholders in the sugar industry have been at loggerheads with the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) over the need for the introduction of a cess to stem the illegal sale of the refined sugar.
However, while Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries, seems satisfied that he has found the proof that imported sugar was making its way into the local market, which is against the policy of the Government, JMA boss Metry Seaga remains defiant on the matter.
He said that if Samuda has the evidence to support his claim, he should take the requisite action to penalise the guilty parties.
"The manufacturers who import sugar into Jamaica without paying duty is highly regulated," said Seaga. "But my statement to the minister is, since you know that, why has no arrest been made over the last 20 years."
Karl James, the chairman of the board of Jamaica Cane Product Sales, who has been embroiled in a war of words with Seaga on the controversial issue, rejected an invitation from The Gleaner to comment on the matter.