The sugar cane industry was given a big boost when Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler delivered the 2013 financial statement and budgetary proposals yesterday.
In outlining his plans for the next 18 months, Sinckler said that the industry would be the government’s principal focus in the agricultural sector.
As a result, the minister revealed that over the course of the next three years and beginning next year, the Barbados Cane Industry Project would be launched.
He disclosed that funding for the project, which will see the re-engineering of an existing sugar factory so as to allow it to engage multiple applications, including the production of bio-mass for the co-generation of electricity, has been agreed with by the Japanese Bank of International Corporation and Japanese commercial banks for up to US$270 million dollars (BDS$540 million).
Sinkler noted that negotiations with all stakeholders including the workers’ representatives had already begun and the Ministry of Agriculture would be making a fuller pronouncement of the details of the project in the coming weeks.
“It is expected that this project will begin implementation in the first quarter of next year and run for three full years. It will radically reform sugar agriculture while having very positive spin-off effects on non-sugar crop production,” he added.
Additionally, he said it was the government’s intention to forge ahead with other initiatives in the short term to give a boost to the local agriculture sector.
This Sinckler revealed, included the creation of a two million dollar grant initiative specifically for small farmers to engage in crop production.
This grant will be established and run by the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The minister also disclosed that in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, his ministry will be proposing a special programme to incentivise local hotels to use more local produce in their properties.
Sinckler also acknowledged that immediate action needed to be taken to likewise preserve the local rum industry, which he said had ‘come under significant pressure from US rum producers who are now the beneficiaries of illegal subsidies.’
This he stated was forcing local and regional producers to be left with considerable stocks of rum which they could not get rid of, while eroding the competitiveness of Barbados’ rum and consequently its market share.
Sinckler disclosed that as a result, in the coming weeks government would sit again with representatives from the local rum industry to examine a mechanism that would initiate a similar level of subsidization for local rum producers so that they could remain relevant and competitive in overseas markets.