Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Is sugar still sustainable?

Published:Tuesday | April 5, 2016 | 12:01 AM


The point raised by North Trelawny MP Victor Wright in the House last week must not be shoved aside. It was about the salinity of soil in the Monymusk area. From as early as the 1970s, if not earlier, agricultural experts were saying that it could not support cane growing on the large scale that was, and still is, practised. Is this expert advice still to be ignored in another knee-jerk rescue? Is a factory sustainable?

Blame the Chinese, if you wish, for not having sufficient on-the-ground expertise. But blame also those who did not take such limitations into sufficient account, as they reached for Chinese financial input. Most of all, blame successive political administrations for not doing the state planning that takes in all the problem-causing variables.

Bear in mind that three major failures have occurred in sugar in the last 40 years:

1) The sugar worker cooperatives venture in the 1970s (a debatable failure).

2) The 1994 local Big Business try, handed back to the Patterson government after four years.

3) The Golding divestment in 2009 to foreign investors, the Chinese, who now handing Monymusk back to the Holness Government.

So a fresh approach is called for: state planning, taking into account many factors: agricultural land not going into housing; suitable land-crop match; retraining of workers and care of their families; linkage with tourism, the electricity grid and value-added wherever possible; and, far from least, stakeholder (workers included) consideration and sufficient capital.

Agriculture has to be treated more seriously than has been the case. Thinking outside of the box and daring are also demanded.