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Brexit will not hurt us, says sugar stakeholders

Published:Wednesday | June 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMMark Titus
Derrick Heaven

Brexit will not hurt us - sugar stakeholders

Western Bureau:

Despite earning most of its income from a supply deal with British-based refiner Tate and Lyle, leading players in the local sugar industry say Britain's decision to leave the European Union (EU) will not have a negative impact on the sector.

"I don't see that result affecting us in any way, our relationship was with individual companies, not the (British) government and fortunately, our contract with Tate and Lyle is not designated in pounds." said Ambassador Derrick Heaven, who is a former high commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK).

"It will be interesting to see what impact the devaluation of the pound will have on companies operating in Britain, but I don't see where their leaving the European Union will be affecting us"

He added: "What we do hope and Know is that that agreement with Cariforum will remain, it is very important for the region."

Historically Jamaica's sugar was exported to Britain under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement (CSA) that guaranteed preferential access and price, but this was transferred to the EU and has eventually been replaced by the EU/CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which preserved duty-free access to Europe but without a guaranteed price.

"I am not overly concerned about the access we have to the UK market, we simply don't have any anxiety right now," said Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS).

"England continues to be a major sugar refiner in Europe. However, we stopped selling in pounds a long time ago... . We negotiated in US dollars for over five years now and our relationship remains healthy," added James, who has responsibility for marketing the bulk of Jamaica's sugar exports to the EU.

At the end of the 2014-2015 season, JCPS and Tate and Lyle penned a one-year supply arrangement for 48,000 tonnes of sugar with the option for an additional 16,000 tonnes for the current crop year.

Since then, the European firm has had to give additional time for the delivery of the first shipment because of the myriad issues plaguing the local sugar sector.

Despite the quiet confidence in the sugar sector that Brexit will not have a negative impact on the sector, there is a widespread view by many noted intellectuals that the controversial decision by the British electorate will adversely impact all aspects of life in the Caribbean.

"From trade relations to immigration, tourism to financial relations, and cultural engagements to foreign policy, there will be a significant redefinition and reshaping of CARICOM-United Kingdom engagements," said Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hillary Beckles.

Before Brexit, Jamaica belatedly sent off a first shipment of 24,000 tonnes of sugar to Tate & Lyle.

The delay was caused by problems in the local sector, to include Long Pond, in Trelawny, initially not down to participate in the 2015-16 crop year; and the court injunction by Algix Jamaica, which forced Appleton Estate, in St Elizabeth, to shut down its operations.