Quiet confidence as sugar season starts
With the sugar industry constantly failing to meet annual projections, stakeholders are cautiously forecasting a combined production of 146,000 tonnes of sugar for the 2013-2014 crop.
However, they note that several factors, including the timely harvesting, sufficient supply of raw material, and the efficient management of the factories are key to meeting this mark.
Just over 128,000 tonnes of sugar was produced from 1.4 million tonnes of cane last year - almost 10,000 tonnes short of the 138,000 tonnes projected.
"It was a disappointing year for the industry due mainly to the amount of cane that was available for reaping," Ambassador Derrick Heaven, executive chairman of the Sugar Industry Authority, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Making sure the factories are efficient and the harvesting of cane is properly handled will be crucial to the eventual outcome of this crop," added Heaven.
Supply should not be a problem for Golden Grove sugar factory, if the projection of Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association, proves correct.
Rickards believes the St Thomas-based facility can do more than the 18,000 tonnes projected.
"Golden Grove can easily do 20,000 tonnes, weather permitting," said Rickards,
"It is my view that they have sufficient cane to do this, but the weather will have to be kind to them."
Rickards is more concerned with the performance of Frome and Monymusk and believe both facilities, which are owned by Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC) must come good for this year's target to be met.
PCSC is under new management after a contentious two years before former boss, Francis He, was replaced by Dr Huaixiang Wu.
Last year, Frome produced 36,700 tonnes of sugar, two tonnes more than 2011/2012, while its sister company, Monymusk, churned 18,501 tonnes.
"Conservatively speaking, we can make 140,000 tonnes, but Frome and Monymusk are crucial," said Rickards.
Worthy Park and Appleton Estate have shown a high level of consistency through the years, and the Trelawny-based Long Pond estate is now seeking to join that elite group after landing the third-place ranking last season.
"This could be a special year for the Husseys at Long Pond, and Appleton and Monymusk will always perform," declared Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales.
"The non-Chinese factories are confident that the target can be met, but the greatest concern might be at Frome and Monymusk, however, with consistent supplies of cane, and a properly managed factory they should pull through," added James.