Sugar sector to get J$2 billion gov’t funding – minister

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Robert Montague, says cane production needs to increase to 3.5 million tonnes if the country is to make any headway in co-generation and value added production. This would mean more than doubling last year’s figure of 1.5 million tones. Montague also said government will inject almost J$2 billion into the sector by 2014.

The agriculture minister made the comments at last week’s 74th Conference of the Jamaican Association of Sugar Technologists (JAST), which is celebrating its 75 anniversary this year.

“Now that we have divested all the government-owned sugar estates, our objective is to develop a commercially viable and sustainable sugar cane industry, which can contribute to the country’s economy” he said. “Cane production needs to increase from the current level of 1.52 million tonnes to 3.5 million tonnes as soon as practicable but by 2015 at the latest.

“This increased level of production will provide the raw material to permit output of around 200,000 tonnes of sugar and some 100,000 tonnes of molasses for the rum and energy sectors, as well as bagasse for potential co-generation projects to supply electricity to the public grid.”

Montague said the government is working to provide the enabling policy environment which will support private investors in the sugar sector.

“The cane pricing, regulatory and institutional arrangements of the sector have been reviewed by the Wint Commission and Cabinet has approved the recommendations, which are now being implemented.”

He said that more than J$643 million has already been provided to support the planting and replanting of cane and installation of drip irrigation, adding that the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is proposing to inject a total of J$1.7 billion into the Cane Expansion Fund by 2014 to drive increased output in the sector.

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