Sugar officials are worried that the proposed multi-purpose factory at Andrews, St Joseph may not be able to get off the ground, on account of a worsening drought, which is said to be impacting not only sugar production, but the entire 2016 cane harvest.
This year, the crop produced just over 10,700 tonnes of raw sugar, but neither the Chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) Patrick Bethel nor General Manager of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) Leslie Parris is expecting any improvement next year.
The situation could adversely affect the Government’s plan to have Andrews factory fully operational by 2018, since it would need a consistently large quantity of sugar cane to produce enough bio-gas for conversion into electricity.
“We expect output to be smaller than [this year],” said Bethel.
He said even though farmers were responding to the Government’s financial incentives to plant more canes, “because of the drought, the cane not growing”.
And to make matters worse, “met officials say next year [the drought] will be horrible.
“This has serious implications for the crop,” the BSIL official acknowledged.
While grateful for the little rainfall that occurred just before Christmas, Bethel said it may be too late to save the entire 2016 cane crop, given the adverse drought conditions and a late start to reaping, which began in April.
“We are trying to draw back to the January start of the crop for agronomic reasons. Research has shown that every month you start the crop later than February, you lose a tenth of a tonne of sugar for the next year,” said Bethel.
Next year’s crop is tentatively scheduled to begin on March 7.
However, the BAMC head could not say how much tonnage is expected next year, even though he expects total yield to be lower than that
Just last week, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick revealed in an interview with Barbados TODAY that farmers should receive a $15 million incentive to help them increase planting and yields around the middle of next month.
Estwick noted that this money was part of a $72 million package approved by Cabinet and loaned by Ansa Merchant Bank of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Minister noted that $30 million had already been disbursed and the remaining $42 million was being split in two tranches. He said the $15 million was the first tranche of that split, with the rest coming later for the 2017 crop.