New call to save industry
A fresh SOS has been issued for the island’s dying sugar industry.
This time the call has come from Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul who called for careful attention to be given to the management of the industry.
Speaking during a media briefing at his Grotto, Beckles Road, St Michael office yesterday, Paul said the vital sector needed to be restructured.
Earlier this month, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick confirmed to Barbados TODAY that Government’s proposed US$250 million Sugar Industry Restructuring Project (SIRP) had effectively been grounded to a halt, following the pull out of all the major backers. Following that report, the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited, which represents independent cane farmers, called on Prime Minister Freundel Stuart to urgently intervene to save the sugar industry from disaster.
Responding to questions from reporters, Paul said perhaps too much responsibility had been placed on the sector over the years and it had now cracked under the pressure.
“Maybe over the years we have placed . . . more on sugar than it can actually bear. And I think that we need to recognize that there needs to be some restructuring of the industry. We cannot get away from it. I know that we have been postponing that issue from time to time,” he said.
“It is not that sugar is not viable of itself, but maybe we ought to [look] at how we manage the industry and the responsibilities that we have placed on the industry . . . If you labour an industry with too much costs of course it will be unprofitable. So the question is really ‘how soon can we offload the cost that we have in the industry?’. It just really cannot carry the costs and we need to be more efficient. How soon can we increase efficiency within the industry? These are some hard decisions that we have to make.
“They are not easy but the fact of the matter is that sugar itself is not the problem. It is like when we compare the tourism industry, it is like we are asking too much of the tourism industry. If you put too much labour inside there at the end of the day it means that you have placed too much overheads on the industry, more overheads than it can actually carry and that is the fundamental thing that we need to face,” Paul contended.
Meantime, Paul disclosed that the agriculture sector could expect some investment next year, although he did not give details.
At the same time, he lamented that the island was missing out on approximately $41 million in investment due to low tariffs on imported poultry products. He therefore renewed his call for Government to increase the tariff from 20 per cent to 184 per cent.