Plagued by myriad problems, the 2011-2012 sugar season was not as sweet as stakeholders in the industry had expected. Official figures show that only 130,000 tonnes of sugar was produced for the year.
After churning out a combined total of 100,000 tonnes of sugar in the first three months of the year, the projection for a final output of more than 160,000 tonnes was deemed feasible.
But this failed to materialise leaving Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association, blaming a number of factors.
"We started really bright, and I did forecast a good year, but the weather worked against us. Plus, there was an overestimation of the amount of cane available, especially on the part of Frome and Monymusk," Rickards said.
Both factories (Frome and Monymusk), along with Bernard Lodge, are operated by Pan-Caribbean Sugar Company, the local arm of Chinese firm Complant, which acquired the estates for US$9 million in a 2010 divestment deal with the Jamaican Government.
Frome, which is located in the Westmoreland sugar belt, closed the 2010-2011 season slightly over the 41,000 tonnes produced the previous year, with a 41,687 tonnes output.
But that was short of the 55,000 tonnes it had targeted for the year.
For 2011-2012, only 34,000 tonnes was produced at Frome, the lowest output in estate's history.
Frome's sister company, Mony-musk, realised an encouraging 29,000 tonnes in 2010-2011, but could only manage 23,000 tonnes this year.
At the Trelawny-based Long Pond, which was out of production in the 2010-2011 season, there were some encouraging signs this year, even though it managed a mere 4.5 tonnes.
The Seprod-owned Golden Grove sugar factory in St Thomas surpassed the 16,000-tonne mark in 2011-2012 and Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Products Sales, says he is anticipating a bumper season in 2012-2013.
HEADING IN RIGHT DIRECTION
"They are heading in the right direction and are perhaps best demonstrating what can happen when the right persons operate in this industry," said James.
Worthy Park in St Catherine surpassed its pre-crop projection for 2011-2012 with output of between 20,000 and 23,000 tonnes.
For its part, Appleton has maintained an output of just over 30,000 tonnes, but James believes the Siloah, St Elizabeth-based facility has the potential to get a 40,000-tonne production level.
"I think it's time that it (Appleton) moves from the 30 zone to 40, because it has the potential to do that," said James.
"The factory can do it, but what they (the operators) claim is that they don't have enough land for cane."
According to James, the entire sector should benefit from an increase in cane production with five million tonnes being the ultimate target over the next five years.
"By 2017-2018, there should be 3.5 million tonnes of cane, giving us 300 tonnes of sugar, molasses for the rum industry, and the production of ethanol," said James.