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UPDATE: Agri minister begs Westmoreland cane field-burning protesters to exercise calm

Published:Friday | January 30, 2015 | 1:54 PM

Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer



WESTERN BUREAU:

Minister of Agriculture, Labour and Social Security, Derrick Kellier, is appealing to citizens in Westmoreland to exercise calm, after they set fire to sugar cane fields in the parish this morning.




The citizens, demonstrating against the killing of a motorbike rider by the police, blocked the roads in three different places, Retreat, Little London and Sheffield this morning, while burning the cane fields.



"We are alarmed at the reports of fires in the sugar cane growing areas of Westmoreland which have already affected an estimated 30,000 tonnes of cane, valued at some $150m," said Kellier in a media release this afternoon.



He said it was regrettable, coming at a time when the industry is poised for take-off, having achieved 20 per cent growth last year and also coming on the heels of the launch of this year’s crop at Frome yesterday.



"Where some US$40 million has been invested in upgrading works, thus increasing that factory’s capacity to process more cane in a more efficient manner," said Kellier.



He added: "I am appealing to all concerned in this very unfortunate occurrence to exercise calm, desist from the burning of the valuable sugar cane crop and to use the established channels of dispute resolution so that Westmoreland, and indeed the country, can continue to benefit from the contribution of the sugar cane sector to our economy."



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