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84-y-o farmer lauds cash crops over sugar cane

Published:Monday | November 18, 2019 | 12:09 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
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A farmer, who got into sugar cane cultivation two years after Jamaica gained political independence in 1962 and has been involved since then, is now convinced that cash crops are a more practical option.

Last Wednesday, as cane farmers tried unsuccessfully to get a commitment from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries about the future of the local sugar cane industry amid flared tempers, 84-year-old Alpheous May leaned across his table and spoke to The Gleaner.

“One ounce a lettuce seed pon quarter square a land. The fus cut mi mek a $400 a pound inna the field and the fus crop mi mek $100,000. Mi go back and sell $60,000 more,” he declared.

This was a recent venture for the senior citizen, given the difficulties facing the sugar industry in general, and Clarendon in particular, where the Government again had to subsidise the transportation of farmers’ cane to factories outside of the parish for grinding.

In his manager’s report, Nigel Myrie admitted that harvesting and transportation of sugar cane to all factories for the year under review proved challenging.

“This problem perpetuates due to a chronic short supply of cane cutters, exacerbated by the failure or inability of the industry to respond by introducing appropriate mechanical harvesting technology to augment manual cutting,” he explained.

But May is not counting on that transition to signal any improvements in sugar cane prospects, and when asked if he was advocating cash crops over sugar cane, his answer was swift and firm.

“It well better. Quicker money. Fi the year, you can plant six crop a lettuce,” said the Clarendon farmer, who has been tilling the soil for sugar cane for more than 50 years. “From 1964 me a grow cane,” he added.