IT is hoped that by now the planting of sugar canes for the 2020 cane crop is well underway given that the planting season has been blessed with adequate rainfall. Canes are usually planted around this time of the year and with what appears to be the restoration of some degree of confidence among cane farmers then the country should see more acres of land being brought back into sugar cultivation.
The dry conditions which have in recent years been a hiccup for an industry still trying to survive in a changing domestic and global environment, would have been enough to turn farmers away from cultivating sugar. Not so this year. Since June (2018) rainfall has been well distributed and this would have made conditions very ideal for planting.
All over greenery has returned and one hopes that with such prevailing conditions they may be the spark required for a further rebound in the local sugar industry. Barbados still wants to maintain its sugar industry producing in the process apart from sugar, such other commodities as Rum, Molasses, and in the words of an Engineer in the industry water which can supplement the income of the industry.
Last year, the industry had witnessed improved sugar production. However, when it was expected that the 2018 sugar crop would have commenced by at least February this year that was not the case as harvesting started in April. Sugar despite its ups and downs still finds favour with several farmers and other stakeholders in Barbados. Even though other countries like St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago have taken the decision to exit this historic industry, countries like Guyana, Jamaica and Barbados have remained committed to the industry.
The story in Barbados is however different in that several years ago sugar production had fallen to around 7 000 tons which was very low considering what Barbados had been producing not so long ago. In previous years sugar production totalled 70 000 tons, 80 000 tons, and even higher when sugar was still a major export earner, with vital foreign exchange flowing into the country from sales to Europe and the USA.
Therefore, once the USA market was no longer available to Barbados, and the industry was affected by significant problems ranging from cane fires, high production costs and a shortage of field labourers, output tended to fall. However, both last year’s sugar crop and the one ending around June this year saw production recovering with just over 11 000 tons of the sweetener having been produced.
Over the years successive governments have given support to the industry so as to keep it alive. It is noted too that several studies have been undertaken to chart a new path for the industry although the degree to which the recommendations have been deployed remain very lacking. There has also been technical assistance with the last known having been supplied by Booker Tate, a UK based agency.
The point must be made though that there has to be more planning for the industry. The country cannot afford to do away with sugar for the simple reason that with vast areas of land out of sugar production and being replaced by bush, runs the risk of creating environmental issues. This has been a point raised repeatedly of an abandoned sugar sector.