Government is being warned of possible serious repercussions for the agriculture sector if it proceeds with plans to revitalize the sugar industry without stakeholder buy-in.
The caution has come from chief executive officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) James Paul, against the backdrop of news that the original financiers for the proposed US$250 million Cane Industry Restructuring Project – an initiative that would have included a state-of-the-art sugar factory – had pulled out.
The CEO told Barbados TODAY that some farmers had not bought into the idea because they were not aware of what was being proposed.
“I think maybe we need to move further and at least try to get the growers themselves to understand exactly what is being proposed, what are the roles that they’re expected to play in that particular proposal to, at least, win the confidence of the wider stakeholders in the sugar sector,” Paul said.
“I think that in itself would avoid the angst that we see in respect of the stakeholders out there wondering what is going on. I think that is an issue that we need to move on relatively quickly because I think all parties would agree that the sugar industry is too vital to the overall interest of the agricultural sector.”
Stating that “games could be played in which mixed messages are sent”, the BAS official said he hoped this was not the case.
He urged the authorities to do “whatever should be done to ensure that this process of creating a new sugar industry is done”.
“None of us [is] too big to do what needs to be done to ensure that everybody is comfortable with the new arrangements,” Paul noted.
He also commented on reports of a rift between Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick and Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler over the source of funding for the proposed project.
According to Paul, a Government Member of Parliament, “there has been an attempt to speak with one voice on this issue”.
He stressed that everyone must move forward together, adding: “If we have an unwillingness on the part of the planters to plant, we will have a difficulty and that is why I think we need to have their cooperation at this time.”