Sugarcane industry still has potential
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday August 25, 2011 – Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr. David Estwick is confident that once the local sugarcane industry is transformed, it has the potential to be profitable for everyone involved.
He gave that assessment following a three-hour closed-door meeting involving officials of his ministry and the Barbados Agricultural Management Company, the Barbados Cane Industry Corporation, the Barbados Agricultural Credit Trust and independent sugar growers.
Dr. Estwick said the meeting drew his attention to what he described as “the strain and stresses” that the present sugar industry was under and the urgency to execute the transformation of the sugar industry into a sugarcane industry and to develop all the value-added products that are marketable locally, regionally and internationally.
“I believe that having had the discussions, the Ministry is now in a much better position to understand the farmers’ issues and the farmers are now in a position to understand what is the plan that we have in place for the transformation of the industry,” he said.
“The objective is to give them some comfort that we’re there with them and we need to work together jointly to ensure that we do not have the sugar cane industry fall by the wayside.”
The Agriculture Minister said that during the meeting, farmers had identified some immediate challenges involving price support and support in relation to the cane replanting scheme.
He said it was unfortunate that the farmers were experiencing “significant financial pressure to the point where some of them are being forced to lay-off persons and to gradually reduce the amount of the tonnage of cane that they are planting because they have been carrying forward losses for many years.”
As a result of this, he indicated that the challenge the ministry faced was “to put them [the farmers] in a holding pattern by essentially looking to enhance the price support structure, as well as the enhancement of the financing for them to do proper agronomic practices at this stage, so as to increase productivity and…stay in the game of keeping their plantations in sugar-cane production, while we move towards the transformation of the industry from a sugar industry to a sugar cane industry.”
Furthermore, he pointed out that creating value-added products could relieve the country of the volatility it was now experiencing in relation to sugar prices on the international market and also the risk from falling prices from the European Union under the Economic Partnership Agreement.
Dr. Estwick maintained that it was best to move into the area of producing specialty sugars as well as electricity from the biomass of cane, and ethanol.