With the 2018 sugar cane harvest a mere two months away, private cane farmers are appealing to Government to settle millions owed to them in outstanding debt.
On Wednesday, Director of Barbados Farms Limited Edward Clarke, one of the island’s leading industry officials, made a direct appeal to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to pay up the outstanding sums, dating back more than three years.
Initially Government had promised that it would pay incentives of up to $160 per tonne to the farmers by the end of the 2016 crop. However, up to April last year they had only received part payment of about $45 per tonne with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler later conceding that Government was finding it difficult to settle the debt.
This after the $15 million that was owed in incentive payments for the 2015 crop was finally settled in 2016.
During yesterday’s Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) luncheon at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Clarke did not miss the opportunity to bring the matter to the Prime Minister’s attention.
“We must not forget our farmers in the sugar industry. Our private farmers have done all that has been asked of them by Government and various agencies, yet they are still owed for some of the canes delivered in 2017 although we have been advised that the necessary finances had been secured by Government. I am asking the Prime Minister today to use his good office to try and ensure that we do receive what is owed to the sugar cane sector,” Clarke told Stuart, who was the featured speaker at the BCCI luncheon.
The sugar industry currently employs about 3,000 part-time and full-time workers.
Over the past year Clarke has been complaining about the slow pace at which Government was honouring its debts, while suggesting that without the necessary funds, the sector could find it difficult to reinvest.
He reiterated that warning at the luncheon, stating that the outstanding payments were necessary if the island were to continue to meet its sugar yield targets.
“We expect the 2018 sugar harvest to be better than 2017 and the only way that can succeed is if the people that deliver can get the money on a timely basis to ensure that they can properly deliver a 2018 service, and that includes the Government agency, the Barbados Agricultural Management Company,” said Clarke.
Up to the end of June last year Portvale Factory had processed just over 132,845 tonnes of sugar, compared with 83, 369 tonnes for the 2016 season.