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Nothing sweet about this sugar meeting

Published:Tuesday | December 22, 2015 | 6:57 PMMark Titus

A three-hour-long meeting among stakeholders in the local sugar industry to discuss issues posing a threat to a successful start to the 2015-2016 crop year ended in stalemate on Monday.

"The parties sat for several hours hoping to find a solution that is a win-win for everyone but could not come to an agreement," said a reliable source yesterday. "A big sticking point is the amount that each producer will be paid for their sugar because the actual payment will be after expenses, and that could be as low as 30 per cent less than what they received over the past four years, so most sugar manufacturers are unhappy."

The meeting, held at the office of the Sugar Industry Authority, which included the three marketing agents Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (PCSC), Seprod, and Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS), was also used to discuss the way forward after the regulator awarded market-agency status to the Seprod group, who was contracted to supply their sugar to JCPS without consulting with key stakeholders.

Last year, Jamaica completed the final year of a three-year deal with British firm Tate & Lyle - which was valued at US$896 per ton in the first year - US$786 in the second year, and US$770 in the final year - for 54,000 tonnes, with 16,000 tonnes optional each year, but only managed to pen a one-year arrangement for 48,000 tonnes of the sweetener with the option for an additional 16,000 tonnes with the refining firm for 2015-2016, a drastic 50.02 per cent less than the payment received the previous year.

In his presentation to the 78th annual conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists in Ocho Rios, St Ann, agriculture minister Derrick Kellier blamed the unpreparedness of the sugar industry to meet the new global sugar regime for the anxieties in the sector currently.

"No one in this room can genuinely claim to be surprised at the reality that confronts us, namely, that next year, we will be earning from sugar exports a price that is approximately 30-40 per cent lower than what we are currently enjoying," said Kellier.

The crop begins on December 27, 2015.