Sweet time for sugar - Industry leaders say future crops looking up
Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau: With the recent drought conditions now history and local manufacturers moving to maximise their production capacities, stakeholders in the sugar industry are expressing confidence that they will surpass the 154,000 tonnes of sugar churned out by the six local factories in the last crop year.
Last year's 154,000 tonnes of sugar was almost 26,000 tonnes more than the 128,196 tonnes produced the previous year.
"I think we will have a better crop this year," said Donovan Stanberry, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.
"We were worried about the drought but thankfully we are now seeing some rain. We believe enough cane was planted incrementally to allow us to have increased production this year.
"We are very satisfied with the level of expansion in the planting of sugar cane and based on investments, we have seen in fields and factories, both on the side of the farmers and the estates," added Stanberry.
The year 2013-2014 was a historic season for the ever efficient Appleton and Worthy Park estates, which were joined by the ever-improving Golden Grove factory, in St Thomas, in attaining their highest-ever production levels with 33,600 tonnes, 27,000 tonnes and 19,300 tonnes respectively.
Despite their solid performances, all three estates are quite conservative in their projection for the coming season, which begins in late November.
Long Pond in Trelawny, which got off to a somewhat slow start in the 2011 divestment era, also flourished last year and will be looking to improve from last year's output of 11,300 tonnes to approximately 15,000 tonnes.
The Chinese owned Frome Sugar Estate and the Clarendon-based Monymusk, which were affected by different circumstances last crop, but managed to churn a combined total of 61,000 tonnes of sugar, will be seeking to make a big impression in the coming season, after shutting down early last year to work on bringing the factories up to international standard.
Ambassador Derrick Heaven, the executive chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority, was full of praise for the farmers who supplied the factories with raw material last year. He thinks Jamaica stands a good chance of reaching the 300,000-tonne mark within this decade.
"Last year was a significant improvement over the year before ... we had three factories producing more sugar than they have ever produced, supported by our cane farmers, who were superb in their response for more raw material," said Heaven. "I expect the producers to push for greater efficiency in every area and my expectation is that our performance will continue to improve for next season and the years to come."
While obviously excited about the prospects of the upcoming crops, Allan Rickards, the chairman of the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association, continues to bemoan the lack of equipment for players in the sector, especially after the recent passing of Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.
"The cane farmers will have a new challenge and it comes from the fact that we lost Roger Clarke," Rickards told The Gleaner. "Whoever replaces him might have a good heart, but Roger was a cane farmer, he was intimate to our challenges, he fought for us."