Flood rains cause millions in losses at Frome
THE PAN Caribbean Sugar Company, the operators of the Frome Sugar Factory in Westmoreland, says the recent flood rains, which affected the island, submerged several acres of matured sugar canes and also did infrastructural damage, resulting in millions of dollars in losses.
Delroy Stone, who heads the technician department at the sugar factory, told The Gleaner that the recent heavy flooding was a massive blow as the harvesting of sugar cane, which was originally set to start on November 16, has had to be postponed until November 26, if the conditions are right.
“Most of the roadways leading into the fields have been severely damaged, and as we speak, three-quarters of the estate is presently under water; so we will now have to wait until the water draws before we can properly assess the damage,” said Stone.
“The estate has mostly lost where quality is concerned, as the constant flooding will cause some reduction in quality of the sugar cane going into the factory, as we really depend mostly on the natural ripening of sugar cane ... . When we have this much moisture, the cane does not ripe the way it should, so the quality will now be much, much lower than we would expect.”
Stone said that while he cannot put a figure on the loss sustained, he is sure it will run into several millions of dollars, especially as it relates to the reduction in the quality of sugar that will come from the flooded cane fields.
“We will now be set back by several days and this will result in less earnings for the sugar workers, more so the cane cutters and equipment operators, who will now all have to wait until we see it fit for harvesting,” noted Stone.
“For the complete harvest, you are looking at about 500 cane cutters, operators are over 100; so we are looking at about 700 persons who will be out of a job until the water draws from the fields, and until we think it is safe to advance into the cane fields.”
“These workers, whose entire earnings come from the estate, will all now have to wait until conditions are back up to par before they can be back in the fields, because it doesn’t make sense we force the start of the harvest because it will only add to our losses, as we are already suffering millions in field damage.”
Like Stone, several cane cutters were also bemoaning the impact which the flood rains have had on their capacity to earn and provide for their families.
“Mi a work with Pan Caribbean since about 2011, when dem tek over the sugar factory, and the harvest always deh pon time so mi can provide fi mi entire family,” cane cutter Robert Green told The Gleaner. “Right now yu know seh a corona a go ‘round, an tings tuff pon wi dung yah. We think we would gwaan mek a money, but the rain cum mash up everything.”
Green, a father of five children, said he provides for his wife and mother. With no income because of the crisis at the factory, they are facing a dilemma.