Jamaica’s Major Push on Sugar

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Above: a sugar cane plant

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Jamaica says it is embarking on a significant push to boost sugar production in the country.

The Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has begun a “massive” cane planting and replanting effort, something which could increase production on the island to around 1.4 million tonnes by 2018, the government said.

The initiative is part of Jamaica’s Cane Expansion Fund, a partnership between the government and the European Union.

“We are aiming to increase cane yields to above 70 tonnes of cane per hectare from the current average of 50 tonnes (cane farmers) and bring an estimated 8,000 hectares of new land into production,” said Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke.
Jamaica’s sugar industry produced more than 600,000 tonnes of sugar annually in the mid-1960s, a number that fell to 128,000 tonnes during the 2012/2013 period.

Despite its struggles, however, sugar earns around $90 million in foreign exchange for Jamaica every year, according to government data. That makes it the largest foreign exchange earner in the country’s agricultural sector.

We cannot forget the sterling contribution of sugar to the education, health and sporting capacity of this country,” Mr. Clarke says.

In spite of the positive contribution of the sugar sector in many areas, there are significant challenges, which must be dealt with, he says.

“We cannot forget the sterling contribution of sugar to the education, health and sporting capacity of this country,” Clarke said. “In short, our industry output is low, our productivity is low and our costs are high. These are some of the key challenges we are now tackling head-on.”