Sat | Aug 18, 2018

Bye-bye, King Sugar; hello, Sea Island cotton

Published:Saturday | April 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM


The Chinese bought out our sugar factories and they are not doing well with them, which is a matter of concern to a number of local moguls in the industry.

Sugar cane and sugar have been around for a long time here, benefiting the UK investors while giving slavery to us. One of the reasons for the abolition of slavery was not only because of its moral abomination, but also because it was found to be better to have people free to work for little or nothing and this nothing could be bargained downwards, rather than to have them forced to do so.

USA had slavery, too, but they had this in their cotton fields. Cotton is an alternative to sugar. And here are dimensions of the situation. We, of the West Indies, have one of the better types of cotton, Sea Island cotton, which provides us with a competitive advantage, which sugar does not provide us with, and which we now gin and export.

When one looks further and knows that we are paid the highest sum for our cotton and that we now gin here and have an old mill from which cloth can be made, if this old mill were retrofitted, it seems to be the thing for these moguls to come to terms with the reality that sugar's days are numbered.

We will, perhaps, need only the one factory to convert the ginned cotton to cloth, rather than the number factories that we now use to produce sugar. When one considers, too, that our cotton could not be replicated anywhere on this earth and in any great quantity, what we have is the opportunity to move from sugar to cotton to make clothes for people of the world and which will last for much longer than sugar has lasted here.

Out of bad can come good. The good is that a golden opportunity has presented itself to these moguls to come together and that, on some of the sugar cane lands, they could start planting cotton and having it ginned here.

Sugar provides us with little or no competitive advantage, but has been around for hundreds of years. Things must evolve, and we must evolve with them.