The eight-day strike at the Portvale Sugar Factory is likely to affect how much sugar Barbados is able to produce for its British market. The amount of the commodity the country will have to import from Latin America to meet local demand, however, will remain at usual levels.
That’s according to general manager of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), Leslie Parris, who told Barbados TODAY this morning, the “real” impact of the work stoppage would be on the country’s contractual exports.
Parris explained that while the original production of sugar for this year was about 18,800 tonnes, the one-week-plus break in operations at Portvale had adversely affected not only the initial estimated output, but the quantity and quality of juice from the canes.
“In terms of the exports . . . we need to continue to assess that . . . so that we can determine, quite early, what the impact would have been in terms of any reduction in sugar. We are not sure yet; so we have to keep monitoring the trend,” he said.
He explained that most of the sugar which this country produced annually was sold to Tate & Lyle in Britain. Last year, 14,500 tonnes out of an overall output of 15,400 tonnes went to the company. In 2012, Barbados produced 23,500 tonnes of sugar and exported 20,900 tonnes.
Parris said even though the field and factory workers had to do some catching up because of the industry shutdown, they had been able to make significant strides in bringing operations at Portvale back to normal.
“On Saturday, the factory ground 750 tonnes of cane, which would have been the cane in the factory yard. When we resumed on Tuesday, we were able to grind 1,740 tonnes of sugar which, of course, would have been sugar which would have been left standing in the fields of the independents [farmers] and in other areas,” added the sugar industry executive.
“Yesterday, we were able, for the first time, to start to grind fresh cane, and during the course of the day . . . we were able to grind 2,447 tonnes of fresh cane. We are currently analyzing the juice quality of that, to determine the sucrose content to assess what impact . . . on the cane that was delivered yesterday.”
The good news, Parris reported, is that there have not been any difficulties with the equipment at the factory.
“Therefore, the factory to date is performing as it did before the work stoppage, and for that we are most grateful,” he said, as he also praised the performance of the workers whom he described as extremely productive and fully cooperative.
“We are back up to speed, because prior to the stoppage, we were receiving an average 2,400 tonnes of cane per day. So the grinding 2,447 tonnes [fresh cane] yesterday is suggesting that we are back to normal,” Parris declared.