With Government struggling to meet its financial obligation to private sector sugar cane farmers, one of the leading industry officials is calling on the administration to make good on its commitment so the farmers can reinvest.
Barbados TODAY understands that for the 2017 crop, Government, through the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, has only been able to meet just over half the promised amount.
“I know the Government is working on it, but there is still grave uncertainty if you can’t get paid on a timely basis,” Director of Barbados Farms Limited Edward Clarke said.
The farmers were promised incentives of up to $160 per tonne, half of which was to be paid initially and the remainder at the end of the crop. However, up to a month ago farmers had received only about $45 per tonne.
The incentives were to be paid in stages under a support mechanism established to assist and incentivize farmers.
The sugar crop season is expected to end in about a month.
Clarke said his entity, a subsidiary of the Sagicor Financial Corporation, was having one of its highest levels of production this year, due mainly to an increase in rainfall last year, as well as some incentives over the past two years.
“We have had an opportunity to expand our growth based on the incentives that the Government was offering in the last 18 months,” Clarke said.
Barbados Farms, which represents a large percentage of the sugar industry here, is expected to increase its sugar output by about 60 per cent this year over last year.
However, Clarke said with funding not at the promised level, farmers would likely have trouble maintaining growth.
“It is no good having increased production then you can’t get funding to fertilize your crops to increase the next year’s production. So the plan in the industry, not just Barbados Farms, but generally in the private farmers industry, was to try to increase the level of production utilizing the resources that Government had agreed to provide as an incentive for increasing growth of new cane planters, and the problem is that the payments have not materialized in a timely fashion once again and we continue to wait for these,” he said.
The late payment to farmers is nothing new. It was only last year that Government settled approximately $15 million in incentive payments that were due for the 2015 crop.
Clarke told Barbados TODAY funding was critical to the survival of the industry, adding it was about time “a proper plan of funding” be put in place.
“It is a matter of trying to be patient and trying to see if we can get a better deal going forward. I think the incentive is there. If the incentive is maintained the industry will improve tremendously,” he said.
The authorities anticipate at least a 50 per cent increase in output from this year’s sugar harvest. The island produced just under 8,000 tonnes of sugar last year.