Cane farmers record 71 per cent drop in production
The sugar industry experienced a dreadful 2016 with a steep decline in production and a fall in the quality of the crop.
General Manager of the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) Leslie Parris said against a backdrop of two consecutive years of drought, there was a 71.8 per cent fall in the tonnage of canes harvested this year when compared to last year.
The situation was made worse by the quality of the cane, with 11.7 tonnes needed to produce one tonne of sugar, up from the ten tonnes required in 2015.
“I am not happy, although we have met the estimates [for sugar output] because we are 71.8 per cent of what we produced in 2015. When the quality is good, that ratio is normally approximately 10. So 11.8 tells that the quality of the cane this year as a result of the drought, was relatively poor,” the BAMC boss told Barbados TODAY.
Parris said just over 83,369 tonnes of canes were harvested this year, a stunning drop from the over 116,105 tonnes in 2015. And he took little solace from the fact that the industry surpassed the projected sugar output of 7,000 tonnes this year, having produced 7,026 tonnes.
“The tonnage would have been due to two consecutive years of drought which resulted in the cane being relatively small,” he said, adding that he was expecting an improvement in next year’s crop with improved weather conditions.
The BAMC executive was upbeat about at least one trend that has started to develop – a substantial reduction in the amount of canes burnt, with 1.92 per cent of the canes delivered being burnt, versus 5.89 per cent in last year.
“It means the percentage of burnt cane delivered to the factory was significantly down over 2015. So there is some good news there,” Parris said, attributing this to “a public acting responsibly and being aware that the higher percentage of the burnt cane, the more damaging it would be on the industry”.
The BAMC General Manager would not forecast next year’s production, explaining that projections were normally done no earlier than November.
Parris told Barbados TODAY most of the sugar produced this year would be exported to the European Community and the remainder sold locally. While he was unable to provide figures, he also noted that there might be a need to import some sugar from the region towards the end of this year.