Jamaica’s Agriculture Minister, Derrick Kellier on Friday believed that privatization is the key to a successful sugar industry, drawing on the lessons of his country that has sold out the fields and factories to Chinese investors.
Kellier, who was in Suriname for the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) and the Agriculture Ministerial meeting of the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom) Council for Trade and Economic Development, told reporters that the only option was selling out the industry.
“Privatization is the way to go if you want to move it quickly because the capital is necessary to be injected into it,” he said.
Confessing that he was unaware of the weaknesses of Guyana’s sugar production, he recommended that any sugar operation should be privatized as a first step towards modernization. “You will get the modernization because the state apparatus doesn’t have the kind of funds to modernize the agricultural sector. You have to get private investments,” he said.
The Guyana government, ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and its allied Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) have always resisted the privatization of the sugar industry from which they have traditionally drawn the bulk of their political support. In the face of a dwindling workforce and low worker-turnout, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) has begun mechanizing aspects of its field operations.
The Jamaican Agricultural Minister credited Chinese “financial power” with making a difference in planting, maintaining and re-tooling the industry. The investor’s plans include the installation of new boilers and the construction of a refinery as well as ensuring that all the right inputs go into cultivation.
The Jamaica Information Service earlier this year reported that China National Complete Plant Import and Export Company Limited’s (Complant) has invested JA$1.6 billioninvestment to upgrade operations at three of the island’s sugar factories it owns, over the next three years. Authorities expect that to facilitate increased production from the current output of 140,000 tonnes, to 450,000 tonnes over the period by increasing the acreage from 3,000 to 6,700.
Responding to questions about the fate of the Caribbean sugar industry when Europe fully liberalizes its sugar market in 2017, the Caricom headquarters’ Officer-in-Charge of Regional Trade and Economic Integration, Desiree Field-Ridley said the agriculture COTED agreed to fnd ways of keeping the European and US markets while paying greater attention to the regional market.
Technical experts, she said, have been mandated by Agriculture Ministers to explore alternative uses of sugarcane, review how existing sugar producers could become more competitive. Field-Ridley said no deadlines have been set for technical experts to return with further recommendations.