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On the rebound

Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke (right) in discussion with chairman of the All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association (AICFA) Allan Rickards (left) and Ludgar Parish, a cane farmer from Clarendon.

KINGSTON — The island’s sugar cane industry has undergone resurgence in the past year, with a big increase in the number of registered farmers and record prices being paid for sugar.

Some 1,000 new cane farmers were registered this year bringing the number of registered cane farmers to 9,000.

Meanwhile, more than $88,000 is being paid per tonne for sugar on the local market, but the authorities say the equipment must be modernised and productivity improved if the gains are to be sustained.

“A new wind is blowing through the industry,” Minister of Agriculture Roger Clarke told cane farmers at the All-Island Cane Farmers’ Association’s annual general meeting at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston on Thursday.

A cane farmer himself, Clarke said he had been justified in supporting and investing in the cane industry at a time when others were saying it was dead. He said even a Government minister said recently that the industry should be scrapped.

“In all my years in sugar, this is one year I can buy Allan a drink,” he said, addressing AICFA chairman Allan Rickards.

“My God, man! I can eat a food!” an emotional Clarke said, noting his climb from leasing four acres of land to having 600 acres in the crop at present.

However, Clarke warned that while this year’s sugar prices were the best in many years with the help of the European Union, they would not remain that way for long.

He said the Sugar Transformation Unit needed to provide more equipment and better irrigation for the parish of Clarendon, which he said had the greatest potential for expansion.

Modern equipment was required to transport cane and new varieties should be introduced to improve yields, he said.

Meanwhile, Rickards – who was on Wednesday re-elected to serve a new three-year term – described the association as “the most democratically constructed farmers’ organisation in the region”. (Observer)

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