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EDITORIAL: Shift focus to future cane crops


EDITORIAL: Shift focus to future cane crops

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AS IT STANDS NOW, it would seem to make sense to expend no more energy discussing the 2015 sugar harvest.

Let’s just be thankful for whatever it offers and turn our attention to 2016 and beyond.

It would be hard at this stage not to arrive at the conclusion that the Government has failed miserably on all matters relating to the 2015 crop. Too many things have gone wrong, to the point where we are headed for the middle of March and not one joint of cane has been harvested.

Add to that the sense that after so many months of failed targets and clear indecision by those who lead, it would not be surprising if few take the latest announced start date with a tablespoon of salt – preferring to adopt a wait and see approach.

We can’t help but feel the pain of Larry Warren, owner of the historic St Nicholas Abbey and the adjoining 225-acre plantation, where sugar is the principal crop, as he spoke last week of expecting yields of 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the normal from his fields. He described his fields as being in “terrible condition”, a situation that is replicated on estates all across the country.

Now in all fairness to the Freundel Stuart Government, we can’t blame them for the fires that ravaged fields last year nor the drought that followed, which made it hard to resuscitate those fields.

But the failure of the Government to pay support to farmers according to the commitment given, the failure of the Government-led agency that manages the industry, the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), to pay the farmers money owed, and the general failure of the Ministry of Agriculture to act in a manner that would offer encouragement to growers have all contributed in no small measure to where the industry is today.

Unfortunately, we will all suffer because of this national failure to act in a manner consistent with pronouncements, a situation that would come across as though salt was being rubbed into our economic wounds, given that Jamaica and Guyana in particular have made tremendous strides in rebuilding their sugar industries in recent years.

So if we are able to harvest 10 000 to 12 000 tonnes of sugar, we should thank the Almighty and move with haste to make sure there is no repeat next year, although persons who understand how the sugar industry works would know that any new canes planted at this time will not be available for reaping until the 2017 harvest.

The critical thing would be for our farmers to work on existing fields – getting the canes cut as soon as possible so fresh growth can begin; getting fertiliser in the fields at the right time to promote optimum growth; and being able to implement and sustain a sensible programme of keeping weeds at bay – while praying that the rains cooperate.

At the same time, the Government needs to stop talking about the creation of a sugar cane industry and start implementing its own plans in a manner that makes the farmers feel like genuine partners. If those who own and operate the land are given the right incentives, they can offer no valid excuses for allowing their fields to remain idle.

So let the focus now shift to 2016 and beyond.