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Adding value to sugar industry

Gercine Carter

Adding value to sugar industry

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Barbados’ sugar industry is on its way to a major transformation with emphasis on the commercial production of alternative by-products from sugar cane by 2014.
Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick disclosed last week that plans were “pretty far advanced in establishing the new framework that will transform the sugar industry to a sugar cane industry”.
He said expert consultations had already taken place and “we are aware that we can have a viable and profitable industry if we execute a select number of value-added products to be derived from the sugar cane plant.”
Estwick told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY his ministry would be focusing on the production of specialty sugars, sugar sachets and Grade A molasses, which he believed would be a greater revenue-earner for sugar cane farmers.
“We will move the production chain down to the point of sachets,” Estwick said, pointing out that machines were already doing this at Portvale but would eventually be moved to the Andrews sugar factory as part of the upgrading programme currently in progress at the St Joseph plant.
The minister also said there would be discussions with the Barbados Light & Power Company for the production of a “20 to 22 megawatt co-generating facility” for Andrews since production of ethanol as an admixture to gasoline was also being discussed with the rum industry.
“We are confident that the value-added products will effect and create a viable and a profitable sugar cane industry in Barbados,” Estwick said.
Barbados is moving to diversify the island’s sugar industry as sugar production has seen a steady decline over the years due to falling export quotas, loss of market protection and the demand for land for housing.
With regard to the loss of agricultural lands to housing, Estwick said some of the plantations bought by the former CLICO?Holdings were “still heavily involved” in sugar production and contributing to this year’s sugar crop, which is projected to surpass last year’s output.
The minister said that as Barbados moved to transform its sugar industry “into a sugar cane industry with high value-added”, CLICO-owned plantation lands were “going to become even more important in regard to our production thrust.”
There will be public consultation on a White Paper on Agriculture at The Savannah Hotel this week as Government seeks to restructure agriculture. This will be followed by three town hall meetings.

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