Fighting fire with words - Government to launch campaign in effort to stop the illicit burning of cane
The Government has responded to the warning from Pan Caribbean Sugar Company that the numerous incidents of illicit fires could sour the sugar industry.
In an exclusive Sunday Gleaner interview published last week, new chief executive officer of Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, Liu Chaoy, said that while the company is confident that it will turn around its financial fortunes, this would not happen if the numerous incidents of illicit fires are not eliminated.
"So I am appealing to the residents in the area to join us in combating illicit fires and save our industry, (because) if Frome closes, this will not only be a loss to us, it will also be a big loss to the Government and the people of Jamaica. If Frome should die, it will be a local calamity on a wide margin," warned Liu Chaoy.
In an immediate response, Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda met with Liu Chaoy and farmers at the Frome Sugar Company in Westmoreland last week and announced that the Government would be making an effort to stem the significant loss in income resulting from the burning of approximately 1,001 hectares of sugar cane since the start of 2017.
According to Samuda, the Government will be launching a public-education campaign aimed at highlighting the importance of protecting the sugar cane industry.
Samuda said that to date, there have been 169 illicit fires, resulting in amore than $600 million loss in earnings.
He added that the Government is willing to give the best support to the industry that is financially possible, and encouraged the farmers to be vigilant and to safeguard their own interest and protect their crops.
"I am appealing to those who are minded to continue with this illicit act to cease because you are not hurting the factory as much as you are hurting the livelihood of humble people, many of whom depend on being able to reap their crops, collect their money, pay their debts, and provide for their families," said Samuda.
Noting that the sugar industry was expecting record yields and record crops this year because of the efforts of the farmers and the good rainfall being experienced, Samuda called on the perpetrators to cut out the illicit burning of cane as it puts the entire industry at risk.
He noted, however, that despite the difficulties being faced, "these actions will not succeed in breaking our will to succeed".
Among other initiatives to be pursued by the Government is the use of drone technology to assist in identification of location of fires, as well as community outreach with support from the councillors who pledged to play their part in the communities by engaging with residents.