Address shortage of cane-reaping equipment - Rickards
Allan Rickards, chairman of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA), has given high praise to local cane growers, but says a chronic shortage of equipment is negatively affecting the gains in the sector.
"What we wanted to achieve as growers of cane is 1.5 million tonnes, so we achieved that handsomely by over 200,000 tonnes, and the crop is not over yet," Rickards said yesterday. "We knew that the projections for the supply of cane were very conservative, that there was a serious underestimation."
However, Rickards believes prolonged success in the sector depends on the chronic shortage of equipment being addressed by stakeholders.
"If we do not have the necessary equipment to take off the crop, this could prove to be our undoing," he said. "Even though we had some successes this year, we still had factories that still have up to 4,000 tonnes of cane not reaped."
Ambassador Derrick Heaven, executive director of the Sugar Industry Authority, believes the farmers are motivated by the increased activity at the factories and the ability to access capital from the Cane Expansion Fund (CEF).
Capital is being provided to farmers through the CEF at five per cent and very attractive concessionary rates and farmers have been taking advantage of the opportunity, auguring well for the sector.
Long Pond has doubled its production, while Golden Grove, Appleton and Worthy Park Estates are set for a record year, and the Pan Caribbean Factories are investing heavily in cane expansion.
The last time the local industry got beyond a 150,000-tonne output was in 2007 (164,000 tonnes).