More seasonal employment opportunities are available for this year’s sugar harvest which is set to begin on
March 7. While General Manager of the state-owned Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) Leslie Parris could not provide exact numbers, he disclosed this week that at least 614 permanent jobs had already been allocated. “We have our harvester drivers and so on, but in terms of the factory, yes, we are looking for some people in certain areas . . . the usual seasonal workers that would be coming in,” Parris told Barbados TODAY.
The sugar crop, which once generated more than 1,000 seasonal and permanent jobs for Barbadians, has experienced a steady decline due to a drastic reduction in the number of factories operating and the use of harvesters. With production this year projected at 85,000 tonnes of cane and 7,000 tonnes of raw sugar, industry officials fear a further blow to this sector as a result of the severe drought conditions. “It has been two years of drought. The weather has been most unfavourable in terms of the crop, hence the low tonnage that we are looking at in terms of the canes that we are reaping . . . and it will also impact on the quality of the canes. That is why we can only have 7,000 tonnes,” the BAMC boss said.
The industry leader said that while this year’s crop would be one of the smallest in the history of the island, a recovery was expected next year. “The 2017 crop is likely to be slightly bigger, if the weather is not unfavourable . . . but it is not likely to be significantly bigger. The independents [farmers] have gone ahead with the BAMC and planted for 2017. So we are awaiting the outcome based on the weather,” he said.
Parris said the BAMC and the independent farmers representative body, the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL), were working hand in hand to reach the common goal of reaping the canes.
Meanwhile Chairman of BSIL Patrick Bethel said while there were fewer canes to harvest this year, the lone factory at Portvale in St James was ready for the start of the crop. Bethel, however, expressed concern about the effect of the drought.
“Things going brown. We are not having any rain. But the factory is ready. Just got to wait and see,” he said.