Senator Abrahams: Review of industry needed
An Opposition senator is calling for a review of the sugar industry.
Senator Wifred Abrahams says Government and all other players need to have a serious discussion about the viability of the sector in light of concerns by some farmers.
“I believe that sugar is a part or our history. Rum and the by products are important to us, they identified us once as a nation and should not be lightly discarded. The reality is that the climate in Barbados, the soil in Barbados is completely suitable for sugar cane, it is the most natural crop to be grown in this country . . . but that only makes sense if it is viable and if it can be profitable,” he said during today’s Senate sitting.
“I would like the powers that be to take off all the political hats because we’re talking about our heritage, we’re talking about our history and we’re talking about our future. If, after careful study, something can be made of the the sugar industry and we can take a step forward to salvage it let’s do that but if as the sugar producers are opting to leave their canes in the field because it makes no sense to harvest them, if we are no longer exporting sugar to Europe and any sugar we produce in Barbados would be for domestic purposes, if it is cheaper for us to actually import sugar from Guyana or Guatemala into Barbados than it is for us to produce here, then we need to take serious stock and decide where we’re going.”
Abrahams was debating a resolution for Parliament to approve the guarantee by the Minister of Finance of the payment of $41 million to be borrowed by the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Limited.
Abrahams said he fully supported the resolution, but went on to caution Government about it’s plan to transform Andrews Sugar Factory into a start-of-the-art multi-purpose facility that would manufacture products such as specialised and refined sugar and refined molasses.
The project, approved by Cabinet two years ago, was projected to come on stream in 2016.
The Opposition senator said: “At this juncture where the reality is that we can’t even muster 18,000 tonnes of sugar in a crop, does it make sense for us to invest $500 million in a sugar factor?”
Meanwhile, in his contribution to debate on a resolution which sought to vest, in the National Housing Corporation, a parcel of land, the property of the Crown situated at Flat Rock, St George, for housing development, Abrahams voiced concern over the changing of land use after Government has compulsorily acquired land that was privately owned.
“Sometimes the Town Planning Department denies a private landlord permission to change the use of his land. Yet, if the land is acquired by the Government at a later
date, Government then proceeds to construct houses on the property. In other words, the private landlord cannot cut up the land to maximise his profit. Such landlords are forced to sell their land as agricultural land to the government at a lower market price,” he said.
Abrahams, who is an attorney-at-law, further charged that there were cases where the Government put the land to use even though the landlord had not received his compensation. (CW/NC)