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Government to help stranded Trelawny cane farmers

Published:Thursday | November 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMMark Titus, Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

With the Long Pond Sugar Factory, in Trelawny, sitting out 2015/2016 crop year, the government on Monday approved funds for cane farmers who normally supply that factory to transport their yields to other facilities outside the parish.

Agriculture Minister Derrick Kellier, who has portfolio responsibility for the sugar sector, is expected to outline the full details when he addresses the 78th Annual Conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists at the Riu Hotel and Spa in Ocho Rios, St Ann today.

Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers' Association and head of the Trelawny group, says he was advised of the government’s decision by Agriculture Minister Kellier on Monday.

Preliminary work is now being done to repair the roadway from Deeside in Trelawny, through to Maroon Town in St James, to facilitate the trucking of cane to the Appleton Estate in Siloah, St Elizabeth.

Some of the cane could be sent to Worthy Park Estate in St Catherine.

Andrew Hussey, the CEO of Everglades Farms, which owns Long Pond, confirmed earlier this week that the historic factory was sitting out the 2015/2016 crop year because of several factors including falling yields from growers and a substantial reduction in world sugar prices.

However, Patrick White, a Clarke’s Town-based cane farmer, rubbished Hussey’s claim, stating that the 270 independent suppliers were meeting their demands to the factory.

“We as farmers feel very much betrayed by the actions of Everglades at this time,” said White, while addressing Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the Trelawny and St James Cane Farmers' Association in Duanvale, also in Trelawny.

“Three years ago, farmers committed themselves to push for greater yields to support the efforts of the owners to keep the facility open," White charged.

He said the production quota for farmers was 30,000 tonnes at the time, and his colleagues went and borrowed money and in 2012, produced over 68,000 tonnes of cane and replanted over 1,000 acres.

“In 2013, we replanted over 800 acres just to support the running of the factory and now just two years after, they just turn around and close the factory with our loans still being paid ... we feel very much betrayed," he said.

A reliable source has informed The Gleaner that the government will be demanding that, with immediate effect,  Everglades Farms provide a long-term plan for the facility for the perusal and approval of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Last Friday, The Gleaner broke the news that about 600 field workers, 270 independent suppliers and 200 factory workers could lose their jobs, but the management of Long Pond is suggesting that the majority of the workers could be retained.