EDITORIAL: Sticking it out

Government, private sector committed to sugar industry


HARVESTING of this year’s sugar crop came to an end last week, according to press reports. What was distressing although not surprising, was that the country had produced a paltry 7 000 tons of sugar making that amount the lowest in recent times and an indication that this country has lots of work to do, if it still wants to stay with that industry. 
Indeed, pre-crop estimates of output for 2016 had pointed to a target in that vicinity based on factors prevailing in the lead up to this year’s harvest.
A lot of the canes in fields across the island were of poor quality; rainfall was insufficient to allow for the growth of the same canes; the prolonged drought also had a negative impact on the canes, although sunshine is required to ripen canes; preparation of fields left a lot to be desired; high operating costs continue to be a real headache for the industry; and the crop started late. 
Last year the country produced about 11 000 tons and earnings from the sale of sugar in that year were about $13 million, down from $18 million the previous year. What Barbados will get this year will definitely be less than a year ago.
The performance of the industry in 2016 could evoke comments urging Government to call it a day with sugar, since many of the hurdles being faced are going to take a while before they are eventually overcome. 
However, it appears that there is still a commitment both by Government and private individuals to stay with the industry while making something out of it after correcting many of the problems that persist.
It is known that the commitment is to see that more land is brought back into cultivation to boost output. The latter is expected from as early as next year.
Government has been suggesting that while this year’s sugar crop would have been below par, it is looking to 2017 when they will turn things around. For instance, they are looking to a crop of 25 000 tons of sugar that hopefully should restore the industry from some of the difficulties it has been experiencing over the course of the last several years. There is still the commitment to the multi-purpose sugar factory at Andrews, St. Joseph, for which an update is definitely required.
These plans have been in line with a 2010 study Government has in its possession. The study was undertaken by Landell Mills, who had recommended sweeping changes while transforming the sugar industry. It called for the transition from the traditional sugar industry to a new sugar cane industry that functions more efficiently and which is more profitable than its predecessor.
It is hoped that very shortly both the managers from the Government and the private sector will do a complete assessment of the 2016 harvest and come to some agreement as to how the country should go forward with the Sugar sector. 
This suggestion is made in light of the fact that Barbados has decided to remain with the industry, having determined it won’t go the route of Trinidad and Tobago and St. Kitts and Nevis to exit the industry. It is still not too late to save the industry, however challenging the situation is at this time.

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