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Samuda tackles sugar woes

Published:Monday | April 11, 2016 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

A senior team from China National Complete Plant Import Export Corporation (COMPLANT) is expected in Jamaica this week in a bid to address concerns in the sugar industry.

The disclosure was made yesterday by Industry, Commerce and Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda.

"This week, further discussions are to be held at the highest levels with all the parties involved," he said.

A decision by Chinese investors, to discontinue operations at Monymusk in Clarendon until 2018 has landed the industry in a tailspin.

Samuda said several high-level meetings, aimed at addressing the issues bedevilling the local sugar cane industry, were on the ministry's agenda.

He also promised that a statement would be made after the discussions are concluded.

"We have been in discussions with all the stakeholders, including the All-Island Cane Farmers' Association," he said.

But while the minister remained adamant that he would not be making premature statements, he disclosed that the chairman of COMPLANT is scheduled to arrive in Jamaica by tomorrow.

He said this was in response to an invitation that he has extended.

"Our focus is to determine how cane is distributed into the various factories, including Frome, Monymusk, Long Pond and Worthy Park," he said.

Samuda said this was with an intention to find a solution to what he described as "the Monymusk situation".

He told The Gleaner yesterday that, until the talks are concluded, he would not be in a position to speak on the matter.

Samuda said, however, that he was "cautiously optimistic" that, by weekend, he should have something definitive" to say.

The divestment of the Government's assets in the sugar industry to Chinese investors was expected to result in a turnaround in the fortunes of the ailing sector in Jamaica.

The sugar industry, however, remains in a precarious position, a situation local players claim is a result of how the Chinese have managed the assets divested to them.

Samuda said consultations were also on in earnest to bring about a resolution to the impasse involving J. Wray & Nephew (JWN) and Algix Jamaica Limited.

Within a month of Samuda's ministerial appointment, the Court of Appeal upheld an injunction against JWN preventing the company from resuming operations at the Appleton Estate sugar factory, crippling harvesting.

The injunction, obtained by Algix in January 2016, bars Appleton Estate from discharging effluent that does not meet trade standards into two rivers in the parish, pending the resolution of a lawsuit.

The case is set for trial in September.

Algix has contended that the effluent from the sugar estate was entering its fish farm and that this was affecting its business.

However, JWN denies any causal link between its factory and Algix's alleged losses.