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Estwick slams suggestions that the sugar industry is now dead

Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick is adamant that the sugar industry will not be allowed to die under his watch.

And addressing the St Lucy constituency branch of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) at Pie Corner, St Lucy last night, Dr Estwick lashed out at critics of the Government’s plan for the revitalisation of the sugar industry, saying it was nonsense to suggest that the island should abandon sugar altogether and grow other produce.

While noting that the sector currently employs about 4,500 people, he stressed that the country could ill afford the collapse of the industry.

Citing an excerpt from former Prime Minister Owen Arthur’s 2006 Financial Statement And Budgetary Proposals, Dr Estwick said that in spite of their current mouthings, members of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party were in favour of the establishment of a sugar cane industry.

The St Philip West MP said: “While Arthur was making these comments you were not hearing the talk out there to let the industry die. You were not hearing all the talk on the call-in programmes. Here we are simply doing what was recommended to do by the consultants, yet we are now hearing from the same planters, who own the plantations, that we should let the industry die.

“It is rubbish to believe that Barbados can turn all of its plantation land into vegetables and root crops,” he said, arguing that “if you take ten or 15 plantations in Barbados and they grow root crops and vegetables alone the market will be flooded with every single product. There would be massive gluts in Barbados and the farmers would not make one cent”.

“Any farmer knows that you can take two or three plantations in Barbados and supply the island with all the food it requires. So if we were ever to take their [critics’] advice, and let the sugar industry die, the other fundamental factor that will seriously affect Barbados is the food security element of the island [since] we rotate food crops with sugar,” he stressed.

Dr Estwick turned the accusing finger on some local planters, charging that instead of adjusting to the changes in the international market, many had abandoned the sugar lands.

“Instead of the planters in Barbados coming together to see what Brazil was doing, what Mauritius was doing and what Cuba was doing, they failed to diversify the sugar industry. We did not do anything like that. Government had to step in to bail out the industry. So the same people who are saying the industry should be closed and privatised bought the keys to the plantations and dangled them [at] the Government. The issue is that by 1992/1993 the industry was dead,” said Dr Estwick, pointing out that the current DLP administration was only implementing the recommendations made in studies commissioned by the previous BLP Government.

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