PM promises sugar farmers outstanding funds but criticizes stakeholders

Sugar farmers have been promised they will get the money they need to plant crops this season, but a tough-talking Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has accused plantation owners and stakeholders of being responsible for the decline of the industry.

Stuart gave both the assurance and rebuke after farmers complained that monies were still outstanding from 2014.

He delivered word today that the money – part of an overall $72 million incentive programme for planters – was available and would be paid.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart did not pull any punches today when he accused stakeholders in the sugar industry of being responsible for its decline.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart did not pull any punches today when he accused stakeholders in the sugar industry of being responsible for its decline.

Responding to questions after addressing the first monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Hilton Barbados Resort, Stuart disclosed that Ansa Merchant Bank of Trinidad and Tobago was about to pay over the funds to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC).

“So far as the monies owed to the planters are concerned, I am very glad the Minister of Finance [Chris Sinckler] is here, because he and I spoke about this matter as recently as this morning. And I am aware that all of the documentation needed to be signed and whatever had to be executed has been executed and that BAMC is to get the pay over from Ansa Merchant Bank so that the farmers can get their money,” he said.

Chief Operating Officer and General Manager of Sagicor Life Inc,. Edward Clarke had said it was unacceptable that the farmers had not been paid for last year’s crop.

Sagicor owns a number of sugar plantations and Clarke told the Prime Minister his Government needed to take action now on the $10 million he said was owed to the industry.

He said if the crop was to begin at the end of next month as scheduled, then the farmers would have to be paid for last year.

Clarke also indirectly accused the Government of leaving the sugar industry to die.

But Prime Minister Stuart struck back and blasted the private stakeholders and owners of plantations whom he said were to blame for the present state of the industry.

He said while successive governments had commissioned a plethora of studies, the essentially private sector-led industry had not given a single recommendation to improve it.

Speaking directly to the Sagicor executive, Stuart pointed out to Clarke he did not have any recommendations to offer during discussions with him on the industry.

“The Government had nothing before it, nothing at all, not a mustard seed of recommendation from the private sector running the sugar industry or involved in the sugar industry about the way forward for the sugar industry,” he said.

“We sat down at a meeting at Ilaro Court and when we were discussing the future of the industry and you and your cohorts said ‘but prime minister, we don’t necessarily agree with that approach’. And I said to you – cause you were the person who made the comment – . . . ‘Edward, you don’t agree with the Government’s approach . . . what has the private sector put on the table for me to disagree with?’ And you said ‘we have put nothing, but we will try and put something together’.”

Stuart admitted that a submission came sometime later.

The Prime Minister further pointed out that Government had intervened and rescued sugar in the 1990s through a restructuring programme, when it should never have been involved in the first place.

“The sugar industry of Barbados was always a private sector industry. It got into horrible difficulty in the early 1990s, not because any government carried it there, but because those who were responsible for it carried it there. The government came in, restructured it. So the problems in the sugar industry are not recent problems,” he insisted.

“The truth is, the Government should not be involved in it at all. It was mismanaged. From the 19th century, the sugar industry of Barbados and parts of the Caribbean, and Barbados in particular, was in decline and the people who were managing it did nothing at all to arrest the decline.”

5 Responses to SWEET RELIEF

  1. Veroniva Boyce
    Veroniva Boyce January 29, 2015 at 4:29 am

    Where wanna get he from? The government suppose to put measures or polices in place to help assist the Sugar Industry.

  2. Tony Webster January 29, 2015 at 4:43 am

    A single blade of cane…like razor-grass…evidently can yet cut and “draw blood”. It is quite evident that the passions aroused have us now at each others throats, and that 1640 (!!!!!) is yet alive in some bosoms.

    Our PM might have been better-advised to say that the private sector has “done nothing” etc, to re-invigorate the industry, in particular, and Agriculture, in general. Continued strong suppoprt for our rum industry, including Remy Martin’s global marketing efforts, the private sector did, in fact, try very hard to develop other viable commercial uses for sugar cane. In the 70’s, , and with help I recall from CIDA, we put in a lot of very hi-tech work in developing the COMFITH project, to make a sort of plywood out of the outer hard shell of the canes. The experimental plant was at Uplands factory in St. John, and my unckle was involved. Unfortunately, extraneous matter mixed in, or adhering to the caes, ruined the h-speed steel blades that shredded the fibres which then made up a glued-up “board”, much like bamboo is today re-constituted into useful high-end household products.

    The very Mr. Bethel, is also a signal, crusading example expanding agriculture, having successfully introduced large scale – and mechanised- commercial onion-farming , in the 70’s and 80’s.

    Our PM also sped over the history books which record the life-work of Sir John Saint, who estaablised the West Indies Sugar-Cane Breeding scientific station, right here, from which many cultivars and hybrid varieties were scientifically produced.

    We are struggling with huge problems which will test our national capacities to the limit, to overcome, but while we do so, may we respect the facts, please?

  3. Angela Thompson Branch
    Angela Thompson Branch January 29, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Sigh !.

  4. Lynda Bonnett
    Lynda Bonnett January 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

    what is eddie abed”s role there?

  5. Tony Waterman January 29, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    “”But Prime Minister Stuart struck back and blasted the private stakeholders and owners of plantations whom he said were to blame for the present state of the industry.”” Can you really believe this Man ?? they owe the Farmers for LAST YEARS Canes, and because they asked fir their Money, so that they can plant for next years crop, they are the CULPRICKS who have destroyed the Sugar Industry, this Guy Must be Dyslexic, he is seeing everything in REVERSE ORDER.
    as far as i know, it has ALWAYS been Private Industry or Persons who have advanced the Sugar Industry in Barbados.

    the introduction of sugarcane into the Caribbean region in the mid-1600s completely changed the course of history in northern South America, the Caribbean and the Lower South. It was the Dutch and Brazilian Jews who took sugarcane and the plantation system from northern Brazil to the Lesser Antilles, where they flourished. On the small island of Barbados, in particular, the two came together and rapidly created an entirely new kind of society based on African slave labour and agro-industry which was the the model that was soon spread throughout the English and French islands of the Caribbean. This model reached the mainland in 1670 when Barbadian settlers established the colony of Carolina at Charleston. Sir John Saint was immersed in Sugar Research in Barbados, so why he is accusing the Private Industries of Ruining the Industry is anyone’s guess.
    If they were Paid Promptly, there would be no reason for them to be asking for THEIR Money. instead they are being Castigated.
    we ARE going to end up like Zimbabwe. it’s just a matter of time.


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