There is no getting back to the “glory days” of King Sugar in the Barbados economy, Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes has declared.
In fact, with sugar production levels declining by a whopping 36 per cent towards the end of June this year, Haynes said Barbados would need to turn its attention swiftly to value-added products from the industry and find other sectors on which to depend for economic growth.
Haynes said even if production levels rise again, there would be no way of getting back to “a significant sugar cane industry as we knew it in the past”.
His remarks came in a media conference at the Central Bank to review Barbados’ economic performance over the first six months of the year.
“Sugar has been in decline for a long time. In the 1960s we produced over 200,000 tonnes of sugar and when I started to work in the Bank (more than 35 years ago) we were producing 135,000 tonnes of sugar. Now we are down to less than 10,000 tonnes,” he said.
“We are not going to get back to the glory days of sugarcane production. That is a given. We have to determine what it is that we want from the sugarcane industry and one has to make a distinction between the sugarcane industry and the sugar industry. Maybe you might have to look to see if there is something you can get out of the sugarcane industry other than sugar. Are we going to produce solely for domestic purposes?” he asked.
Sugarcane production declined to approximately 7,400 tonnes of sugar due to “drought conditions and husbandry challenges” linked to the late receipt of funds, along with an initiative to produce higher quality molasses for local consumption purposes influenced by production, the central bank report said.
Haynes said it was time for serious consideration to be given to the diversification of the local economy while acknowledging that there is now heavy reliance on the tourism and international business sectors.
He said he was not sure how much of the global medical cannabis industry Barbados would get when it got involved, but said it could help with economic activity and earnings.
“But we need a number of other supporting sectors to our tourism and to our international business services in order to grow the economy over the medium term,” said Haynes.
During the review period, the overall agriculture output declined by eight per cent, which the Central Bank blamed mostly on “adverse weather conditions” resulting in lower crop yields.
Non-sugar production weakened by about 3.7 per cent, chicken production declined 5.7 per cent and fish catches dropped 22.8 per cent.
However, there was an “encouraging” increase in other meats of 9.2 per cent.
Over the past year ending June 30, 2019, it is estimated that prices increased on average by two per cent, reflecting a slowdown from the 5.3 per cent the previous year.