Thu | Sep 20, 2018

Shaw commits to another Monymusk bailout

Published:Thursday | September 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Audley Shaw

For the third consecutive year, the Government will dip into its coffers to bail out farmers contracted to plant cane for the Monymusk sugar factory in Lionel Town, Clarendon, according to Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw.

"I am inviting and encouraging all farmers who farm for Monymusk to grow your sugar cane. We are going to take the crop off. The very extreme measure - if it gets to that, but it doesn't have to get to that, but if Monymusk doesn't open for 2019 then - we are simply going to have to arrange to transport that crop to Worthy Park and to Appleton to ensure that the crop is taken off," Shaw said on Tuesday at a luncheon hosted by the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA) and Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.

He added: "Some will say the sugar industry right now is in crisis, and I would not want to challenge that at all.

I am obliged, on behalf of the Government of Jamaica to the people, including the 30,000 persons who are employed in the industry right now."

Monymusk as well as Bernard Lodge in St Catherine and Frome in Westmoreland are the estates divested by the Government to the Chinese state-owned entity COMPLANT, through its subsidiary, which trades as Pan Caribbean Sugar Company. The Clarendon-based factory has lost in excess of J$6 billion since the new owners took over.

 

SITUATION COULD WORSEN

 

The Government was forced to spend J$300 million in subsidies and other financial support to take off the 2017 crop after the owners advised that they would not do so. For this year, the owners operated the factory, but the State was again obliged to provide subsidies to cover the cost of reaping. The situation could worsen for the next crop year, Shaw pointed out.

"It is no secret that Pan Caribbean has indicated that it doesn't intend to run Monymusk next year, so we are faced with the immediate issue as [to] what is the future of Monymusk. And it is something that I am tackling very careful right now, with close consultations with our industry leaders. We do have some investment interest. I have at least one firm proposal that is on the table right now that we are [looking over] ... and I am advised that there are at least one or two more proposals that are imminent to come before us," he said.

"I want to assure the farmers because now is planting season, now is rehabilitation season because the last crop is out. I am encouraging you: Grow your cane because by whatever means, we are going to take the crop off next year. We have a duty and an obligation to do the best that we can do to rescue and turn around the sugar industry."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com