Top sugar officials are hoping for a “smooth run” of this year’s crop, which started this morning.
But chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited, Patrick Bethel, fears that if this does not happen, the industry could be faced with another challenge.
While Bethel did not specify the previous challenge, he was likely referring to an earlier delay in the commencement of the harvest, as the Barbados Workers Union sought to settle some outstanding industrial relations issues, including overtime, on behalf of field employees.
General manager of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company, Leslie Parris, told Barbados TODAY, Portvale – the sole factory in operation – received its first supply of canes at around 10:30 this morning. Up to about noon, an estimated 214 tonnes of cane had been delivered.
Parris said the projected production of sugar for this year is 180,000 tons, with about 15,000 tons being allocated for export to the European Union and the rest for local consumption.
He noted that Barbados required some 250 tonnes of sugar per month to satisfy local demand.
BSIL chairman Bethel told this newspaper the country was moving towards branded Barbados sugar, giving consumers a choice between the local commodity and the imported “dirty” one.
He said while there would be a disparity in the price of both types, people would have an option.
The sugar sector executive observed that this year’s output would be slightly higher than last year’s and even higher in the following year, because more canes would be planted.
At least one plantation which did not start harvesting canes today, was Groves in St George and officials said they did not know when that would happen. This paper was informed that Groves management was waiting on a piece of equipment to get their field machinery going.
“The distance has become a challenge [from Groves to Portvale, St James]. Before, the factory was there [nearby],” complained an official; but now, the executive added, canes have to be delivered much farther, across country.
Meanwhile, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told the House of Assembly during debate on the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure this morning, that funding for this year’s crop had been “locked in”, and it was now up to the BWU [for harvesting to start].
However, Sinckler was quickly informed, while on his feet, that the harvest had already begun.
He also revealed that plans for restructuring the sugar industry was well advanced, in that he had signed off on the financing arrangement with the Japanese.
He stated that the principals of the Japanese financial institution backing the project were in Barbados and were excited about investing in the venture.