Not so sweet
Harvesting season gets failing grade
Director of Barbados Farms Limited Edward Clarke has given the recently concluded sugar cane harvesting season a failing grade, saying the ball was now in the Government’s court to articulate a concrete plan of action to increase sugar cane production in the coming years.
Clarke told reporters today that Barbados Farms Limited, a major player in the local agriculture industry, had engaged the Government to identify some possible solutions to the dwindling sugar cane crop.
He described this year’s harvesting season, which began in April and ended late last month, as “very poor”. It was not immediately clear what the total yield was.
“We are not surprised about the production. If you start a crop in April, and you don’t have the money to fertilize your crops prior to that, you are not going to end up with a productive crop season,” Clarke lamented.
Before this year’s harvesting season began, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick told reporters that because of revenue challenges, the Government was not in a position to effectively assist farmers in their post crop management. This resulted in lower yields in 2015 than in previous years.
However, Estwick said at the time that Government expected to have more canes planted, better yields and output, because the money farmers needed for fertilizers and pesticide management was available for a successful 2016 season.
Estwick could not be reached for comments this evening.
Stressing that sugar took a while to grow, and the production depended on what was done 18 months prior to the start of the harvesting season, Clarke said the necessary inputs must be made on a timely basis.
“This is a major issue. We have had meetings with Government and they understand our concerns. We have actually been working with them over the last few weeks to try and come up with a solution. So we expect a positive response,” said Clarke, adding that the feedback had been “quite positive”.
“We are hoping that we can come to a workable solution for the industry because we cannot continue like this. I think this is decision time, and everybody understands that. So we are awaiting some final feedback from the Government side at this time,” reported Clarke.
The company has announced that it intended to quit the once lucrative sector. Clarke said a decision on “where we are with the industry” was likely at the end of this month.
He said Barbados Farms had been losing money for the last five years on agricultural production –– mainly sugar production, therefore the shareholders had “rightfully told us we need to fix it, and if we can’t fix it, we need to make a decision whether we will be continuing or not”.
He acknowledged that Barbados Farms was a “significant grower of sugar cane and producer of sugar”, adding that company executives would act “very responsibly” as the weighed the final decision.
“We have given everyone an opportunity to listen to us and hear our pleas and hear our reasoning for what we are doing. We have put forward our request and what we can do to stay alive over the next five years, and we think now it is up to the Government side to make a final decision and let us know,” he concluded.