Sugar pain

Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick

Three hundred years of exporting Barbados sugar to Europe in bulk will soon come to an end.

Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick announced this morning that it was unsustainable to continue selling sugar to the European Community at the current significant losses.

“Very, very soon, I am going to give a directive once I can get clearance from Cabinet that we will look to cease the export of sugar to Europe. It makes no sense producing sugar at $4,100 per one-ton of sugar and then we are selling it to the Europeans at $980; that is bad maths, bad arithmetic, and I’m not going to support it,” insisted Estwick.

Reporting during a press conference on developments within his ministry, he said the country would instead be producing sugar for local and regional consumption within the context of the Revised Treaty of Chauguaramas, along with the other value added products now being looked at.

In disclosing the new direction of the sugar industry, Estwick assured the independent cane farmers across the island that in spite of the economic difficulties facing the Government, they would benefit significantly from a major restructuring of the industry.

He appealed to them to stay the course with Government, because the entire Barbados cane industry restructuring project was designed, among other things, to produce an alternative energy component via the establishment of a co-generation facility that has the capacity to produce between 23 and 25 megawatts of electricity annually.

“The long and short is that component alone, based on the special renewable energy rider that is now being offered by the Barbados Light & Power, will be able to provide a profitability to the sugar cane industry as one of the transformation elements,” he noted.

“In addition to this, there is now a project that I have in my possession that I have just transferred to the Barbados National Oil Company Limited. This is a project, where the alcohol produced by the West Indies Rum Distillery Limited, is to be dehydrated and made available to the automotive industry.”

The minister of agriculture told the news conference that Barbados now imported 140 million litres of gas every year, to which MTBE, a toxin, was being added to the gas to enhance it.

“It is therefore in the interest of the country and is also in greening Barbados, that we are going to move to replace that by volume, which would represent the volume of MTBE added to our gas [of] approximately seven million litres annually and as a result of that, the West Indies Rum Distilleries project is to dehydrate and have available to the Barbados National Oil Company Limited, seven million litres of alcohol annually, to be added to their gasoline,” Estwick explained.

He suggested that this initiative would create an additional revenue stream for the rum industry that was driven from the agricultural side of cane production. This, he added, not only added a greening aspect of the environmental thrust, but the alcohol and electricity components of production, represented two elements that would provide profitability to the new sugar cane sector.

“In addition to that, there are two other elements of revenue stream that we are exploring. One is already in operation. This is the production of speciality sugars and this is being done through a joint venture arrangement with a company known as WISCO and that is now operating with speciality branded sugar in Europe; and I think most of the supermarkets in Europe already carry this particular brand of Barbados speciality sugars,” Estwick said.

It was at this point that the minister announced his intention to get the cabinet’s approval to ban future exports of bulk sugar to Europe. (EJ)

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