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EDITORIAL: Blurred stance on sugar


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Blurred stance on sugar

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INDIVIDUALS whose livelihood and professional reputation depend on the efficiency of their management of anything know that success inevitably depends on being dynamic. They readily admit that as tough and demanding as the job may be, they cannot take a linear approach to executing their duties.

Stated another way, effective managers are dynamic people because they recognise that they operate in dynamic environments. The average day involves giving leadership to multiple tasks simultaneously because to wait for the outcome of one project before starting another would be akin to committing employment suicide.

As much as we hate returning to this subject in this manner, we believe we have no choice.

We are now mere weeks from the middle of 2015, more than one third through the 2015 sugar harvest, between seven and eight months from the 2016 harvest – and operating in a manner that says the next harvest will be just as disastrous, if not more so.

We will not pussyfoot around the issue. The grossly late start to the 2015 harvest is entirely the fault of the Freundel Stuart Government, and perhaps the most apt reflection of the poor leadership of Minister of Agriculture

Dr David Estwick.But at this stage we can do nothing about the current harvest – it is what it is. What we just can’t fathom though is the absolute lack of communication with the farming community or the public about what should be happening to start the resuscitation of the sector.

We have heard of agreements and plans, a proposed new co-factory at Andrew’s in St Joseph and the reciept of money from ANSA Merchant Banks of Trinidad, but short of some miracle, what can they do at this stage to make 2016’s a viable harvest? This Government has been operating during this critical period at snail’s pace. How does one raise a viable sugar crop in seven months?

Having started the 2015 crop well into the second quarter of the year, the reality of bad planning is now manifesting itself. Workers at Portvale Sugar Factory are grinding the heart out of the facility, but the dry, old cane coming from the fields is yielding well below optimum juice levels.

The end result: We expect to barely make 12 000 tonnes of sugar this year and the production so far is a most embarrassing figure – 4 361 tonnes. Not so long ago we would have rounded off the output number at the nearest ten thousand tonnes, refusing even to mention the 4 361. Today that is the actual production figure.

If our Minister of Agriculture and his colleagues in policy formulation were serious about sugar production, parallel with the 2015 harvest they would have been running a substantial programme for new planting, substantial tending of canes planted late last year for harvest next year, meaningful dialogue with farmers to bring old fields back into cultivation and general sensitisation of the country to the fresh impetus directed at the sector.

Instead, it is hard to find a tractor on the road hauling canes to the factory this year and even harder to find any evidence that the focus has shifted to the next harvest. By the time Portvale shuts down its boilers, we should be somewhere around the end of June. Does that mean we will then deliberately have to start next year’s harvest late to allow for six to seven months of cane growth? God help us all if the weather does not cooperate in the second half of 2015.

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