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Int'l Sugar Organisation head shocked by Jamaica's imports

Published:Friday | November 22, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

THE WAKE-UP call he received at breakfast early last week Thursday morning was still on the mind of Dr Peter Baron, executive director of the International Sugar Organisation, when he addressed the annual general meeting of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association later that day.

Prior to delivering a very informative presentation on the future of sugar and ethanol, Baron shared his disappointment upon finding that the sachets of sugar he used were imported from Brazil (brown sugar) and Guatemala (refined sugar), even though they were packaged in Jamaica. Even though he enjoyed breakfast, the experience left the sugar expert a little bitter.

National pride

"I don't know why they ship in here sugar unpacked from Guatemala and pack it here. Why do they not use Jamaican sugar? I found it a bit absurd. I just don't understand it, frankly. I mean a Jamaican hotel, one of the biggest hotels here, and they have sugar from Brazil and Guatemala on the table," he told The Gleaner afterwards.

He continued: "Maybe there is a deeper reason I don't understand, but it is strange when you are in a country where sugar plays such an important role and you find sugar from Brazil and Guatemala. To me, it's a bit difficult to understand, and I think it's not right. I think, really, it should be a little bit of national pride to do it here, particularly when you are able to do it. It would be different if there were no possibility to do it, but I'm sure there is, particularly since it is packed here."

Meanwhile, Karl James, general manager of Jamaica Cane Products Sales Limited, the company which originally imported the sugar which was distributed to the company that packages the five-gram sachets, described the situation as scandalous.

He explained that the contractor had a legal obligation to clearly indicate the source of origin, admitting that Jamaica's commitment to supplying its European quota means that this contractual arrangement must be met, and if necessary, sugar is imported to meet the 55,000 tonnes of brown sugar Jamaicans consume on average each year.

The Caribbean imports an estimated US$100 million worth of sugar each year, according to James.