We have seen no estimates of projected sugar production for the 2013 harvest, but we are willing to bet it will be no higher than this year’s. In fact, based on the trend of the last 20 years, we are willing to stick our necks out and say we expect that less will be produced next year than this year.
With elections around the corner, possibly ahead of the corner, the current Government is doing a lot of talking, and when compared with their apparent dislike for conversations with the population over the last four and a half years, we should all be grateful.
Truth be told, however, too many of their arguments are not erasing the bad taste of the recent past. And if the Barbados Labour Party believes it can take comfort in this situation, particularly as it relates to sugar, its leaders should think again. Their record on agriculture in general, and sugar in particular, has been abysmal.
We readily accept that the biggest problem that confronted sugar over the years was not of our making, but when faced with the challenges we have done what we do so well — talk, talk, talk. Both the BLP and DLP Governments, have talked all over their faces about sugar: the one-factory model, a cane industry rather than sugar industry, sugar cane to produce electricity, canes planted specifically to produce ethanol, and so much more, and today we are no closer to achieving anything. In fact, based on the annual slide, we are farther away from a solution.
Since we are so fond of comparing ourselves with others and always coming out smelling fresher, take a look at the news out of Jamaica today. One thousand new sugar farmers were registered this year, bringing the total number to more than 9,000. And the farmers are happy: They are expecting payment of JA $88,000 for every tonne of sugar produced.
Hear their Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke: “A new wind is blowing through the industry…” He spoke of fresh investments in the sector bearing fruit.
Now listen to the president of the All-Island Cane Farmers Association, Allan Rickards: “In all my years in sugar, this is one year I can buy Allan a drink… My God, man! I can eat a food!”
He was not talking idle. He had increased his production from four acres to 600.
Who in Barbados can say he or she is happy with sugar production? Who can point to increased output? Who is shouting they can now buy a drink? We once ruled the world of sugarcane, so what do Jamaicans know that we don’t?
We dare say: nothing!
We have grown to like the sound of our own voices so much that we just can’t stop talking — not even long enough to do the things we talk about. So instead we offer excuses — more talk. And with general election about to occur, all sides have ramped up the talk, but we see no increase in action.
Unfortunately, since nothing can happen to turn sugar around in the next few weeks, we can only admonish Barbadian voters to listen carefully to the talk. We go further and suggest to Barbadians that since it is within our power as a country to determine the success of our agricultural sector, regardless of what the rest of the world does, we should judge all the other promises of the parties on the strength of their agricultural promises and projections.
If a party can’t articulate a sensible strategy for agriculture over which they have so much control, why should they be taken seriously on matters of foreign trade, manufacturing, off-shore business, even privatisation, and the likes, when so much of the outcome in these areas is dependent on the actions of others outside our jurisdiction.
Let the politicians talk — that is their strength. We ought to be shrewd judges — that is our power.