Gov’t, cane farm­ers to meet over trou­bled Long Pond

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS -

THE GOVERN­MENT is to meet with the All-Is­land Ja­maica Cane Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (AIJCFA) to dis­cuss con­cerns re­gard­ing the fu­ture of cane farm­ers op­er­at­ing in the Trelawny su­gar belt, fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment that the Long Pond Su­gar Fac­tory will not be op­er­at­ing for the 2016-17 crop year.

“The sit­u­a­tion at Long Pond is not good; not an ideal sit­u­a­tion,” said Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries Karl Sa­muda while ad­dress­ing the 79th annual con­fer­ence of the Ja­maica As­so­ci­a­tion of Su­gar Tech­nol­o­gists, held at the Riu Ho­tel in St Ann on Thurs­day. “We would have hoped that at the end of the crop, the own­ers would be work­ing to fight with us to get an in­vestor to part­ner with them.

“We were hop­ing that we would have a fi­nan­cial ar­range­ment worked out so that we could look for­ward to the open­ing of the Long Pond fac­tory, but it now ap­pears it is not likely to take place,” he con­tin­ued.

We would have hoped that at the end of the crop, the own­ers would be work­ing to fight with us to get an in­vestor to part­ner with them.

FI­NAN­CIAL SUP­PORT

As a re­sult, the Govern­ment will be pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sup­port for the trans­porta­tion of 50,000 tonnes of the raw ma­te­rial from the Clark’s Town, Trelawny, fa­cil­ity to Wor­thy Park in St Cather­ine at an es­ti­mated cost of $50 mil­lion.

“We are not pre­pared as a Govern­ment to go back into the own­er­ship and pro­duc­tion, but we are pre­pared to sup­port to the fullest ex­tent all ac­tiv­i­ties to cre­ate jobs and to keep our cane farm­ers work­ing. It’s a good busi­ness de­ci­sion [be­cause] as­sets that can be very use­ful for the growth and de­vel­op­ment of our coun­try, we want to [be] main­tained in the best pos­si­ble con­di­tion, and aban­don­ing cane field and fac­to­ries is not the route to take,” said Sa­muda.

The Govern­ment, through SCJ Hold­ings Ltd, had to take over op­er­a­tions of the Long Pond Su­gar Fac­tory dur­ing the 2015-16 sea­son, sav­ing hun­dreds of jobs in the process, af­ter own­ers, Ever­glades Farm, opted to close the fac­tory for the crop year.

Speak­ing with The Gleaner af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, both Sa­muda and Al­lan Rickards, chair­man of AIJCFA, said a meet­ing to dis­cuss the longterm fu­ture of cane and su­gar pro­duc­tion in the area was in­evitable.

Said Rickards: “The min­is­ter has tried, and I can­not pre­tend that I don’t know that he has tried. I know the con­ver­sa­tions that he has been hav­ing and I also know the dif­fi­cul­ties and the in­tran­si­gence of the own­ers, but in the long term, we as lead­ers will have to work with it, while look­ing at the longterm al­ter­na­tives be­cause there are hun­dreds of lives that will be af­fected.”

SA­MUDA

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