Cane farmers want an urgent meeting with the Mia Mottley administration to try to broker a new cane price contract now two years in arrears.
“We are still in negotiation on the 2016 cane price and we have delivered all the canes for 2018. So we have to get a meeting to discuss that,” chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) Mark Sealy has told Barbados TODAY.
Sealy said while cane farmers have received all the money for the 2017 crop, there are still outstanding payments to be made for sugar delivered to the lone factory at Portvale, St James, for this year’s crop.
“We have been paid the third stage ECRIS [Enhanced Cane Replanting Incentive Scheme] for 2017 . . . the final payments for 2017 and we are awaiting the first support of $35 [per ton] which was promised for 2018. We have not received that as yet, but we are working on that with the Ministry,” he said, explaining that under the ECRIS, extra money is given to encourage farmers to plant.
Sealy noted that the first stage payment of the ECRIS was between $3.5 million to $4 million having taken into consideration that the Government had approved $5 million to help boost that scheme.
“However, we are awaiting . . . we’ve received only this year, when the farmers delivered cane to the factory, they only received $45 per ton. In previous years they have received $80 per ton. So we are awaiting the $35, which is the first support payment, which comes from the [state-owned] BCIC [the Barbados Cane Industry Corporation]. So we are awaiting the $35 first support payment for 2018, which was promised,” the private cane farmers’ representative told Barbados TODAY.
Sealy said the $5 million which was promised by Government has not yet come through to BCIC from the Ministry of Finance.
“I believe the Ministry [of Agriculture] is working on that now . . . to try and get that $5 million . . . to request that from the Ministry of Finance, and once that comes then I would expect that we would be paid the $35 first support,” he stated.
Turning his attention to the 2019 sugar harvest, the BSIL chairman is anticipating a challenging season, even though this year crop recorded a 15 per cent increase in sugar production.
“Next year could be challenging. We are getting some rains now, but remember we started the crop late and therefore it would have finished quite late all the way down to July 15 . . . and when you finish a crop late like that, what happens is that your growing time is reduced significantly. So it is unlikely that we would want to push for a start of crop much before March next year,” Sealy said, adding that this year’s crop began in April when normally it should be around February.
“We can go back as much as a month. Hopefully that would reduce the effect a bit. But if you were to start in February then you would have two months less growing time and you wouldn’t want that,” the private cane farmers’ spokesman pointed out.