Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Roger Clarke has challenged cane farmers to raise their productivity levels in light of the strong demand and price for Jamaican sugar. Following an extensive tour of the Worthy Park Estate in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine, recently, the minister said small farmers should look at getting back into production in order to meet the demand of the local and export markets.
With local consumption of refined and raw sugar in the region of 140,000 tonnes, a commitment for 54,000 tonnes from Tate & Lyle in the United Kingdom, and 11,000 tonnes slated for the United States market, each year, Clarke insists "there is no problem with market".
Pointing to a trend where small farmers are getting back into cane, the minister had this challenge for his fellow farmers:
"This is the moment when we must get up off our haunches and get out there and produce efficiently and lift production and deal with productivity in all the ways we can."
Important to keep current
Even though Government has divested all its cane assets, the minister said it was important that it keeps abreast of developments in the sector, hence the reason for his tour. Following an extensive tour of the Worthy Park Estate cultivation, including a nursery planted out in seed cane to identify a variety resistant to sugar cane rust, he admitted to being impressed with the operations.
"Worthy Park understands the challenges ..." he noted, with Chairman and Managing Director Peter D. Connell admitting that the orange rust disease now affecting some of its cultivation was a major challenge for the company.
The disease results in discolouration of the leaves, hampering the photosynthesis process, thereby negatively affecting growth and, by extension, the overall tonnage per hectare. It does not, however, affect the sugar quality. It is a tribute to the company's operations, deemed the most efficient in the country, which resulted in a conversion ratio of 8.36 tonnes of cane per tonne of sugar achieved last year, maintaining the industry benchmark it has long established.