Speaking at the 79th annual conference of the Jamaica Association of Sugar Technologists, held at the Riu Hotel in St Ann on Thursday, Agriculture minister Karl Samuda stated that the Long Pond sugar Factory will not re-open for the 2016-2017 crop season.
Mr Samuda said: “We are not prepared as a Government to go back into the ownership and production, but we are prepared to support to the fullest extent all activities to create jobs and to keep our cane farmers working.”
The government was seeking investors to take over the sugar factory, but so far has not been successful.
The Government, through SCJ Holdings Ltd, had to take over operations of the Long Pond Sugar Factory during the 2015-16 season, saving hundreds of jobs in the process, after owners, Everglades Farm, opted to close the factory for the crop year.
The good news is that the government will not totally abandon the cane farmers. Now, the Government will be providing financial support for the transportation of 50,000 tonnes of the raw material from the Clark’s Town, Trelawny, facility to Worthy Park in St Catherine at an estimated cost of $50 million.
Subsequent to the announcement, the Government is to meet with the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA) to discuss concerns regarding the future of cane farmers operating in the Trelawny sugar belt.
Speaking with The Gleaner after the presentation, Allan Rickards, chairman of AIJCFA, said: “The minister has tried, and I cannot pretend that I don’t know that he has tried. I know the conversations that he has been having and I also know the difficulties and the intransigence of the owners, but in the long term, we as leaders will have to work with it, while looking at the long-term alternatives because there are hundreds of lives that will be affected.”