Trinidad: Sugar grinds to a halt, for good

Trinidad Express
Friday, May 25th 2007
Ariti Jankie, South Bureau

At 6 p.m. yesterday, the last truck loads of cane were brought to the Sugar Manufacturing Company Ltd (SMCL) at Usine Ste Madeleine.
By the end of today, the factory will grind to a halt-for good as a producer of sugar.
The last harvest has left 5,000 cane farmers in a dilemma. President of the Cane Producers Association of Trinidad and Tobago Seukaran Tambie said the farmers were apprehensive about their future.
“It is a very sad day for cane farmers,” he said, adding that for the next six months there will be no source of income. He said that farmers would be calling on SMCL to make the final payment within the next ten days.
Farmers received $115 a tonne in the first payment made during the harvest. A final payment of $90 a tonne will be paid by August. The price of cane increased this year from $180 to $205 a tonne.
Tambie said that the farmers had no money to prepare the land before the rains.
“We are stuck with sugarcane fields and no money to switch over to other food crops,” he said.
He said that farmers were hoping that the inter-ministerial committee set up to provide a soft landing for farmers would have the solution on hand before the crop ended.
Government has withdrawn its support of the industry following this year’s harvest and has set up an inter-ministerial committee to make recommendations based on proposals submitted by five cane farmer organisations.
The committee will meet representatives of the farmers groups on June 1.
Farmers are expecting a lumpsum payment of $1.6 billion which was recommended by four of the five groups.
Tambie said that this year’s harvest had been a disaster. “The crop started late and the lack of infrastructure delayed the harvest,” he said, adding that many farmers were unable to reap this year’s crop.
Farmers supplied 370,000 tonnes of cane, 30,000 tonnes fewer than they expected.
As the weighing scale operators submitted receipts for sugarcane received at the 30 scales, several of them were questioned about the drop in weight from the cane yard to the factory gate.
Sunil Samaroo, who operated the Number Two scale at Barrackpore, said that the delay in moving burnt cane from the cane yard to the factory gate caused the cane to dry and resulted in a loss of weight. He said that reloading the cane onto tasker trailers also required chopping and trimming that caused a drop in the weight. “It is something that has happened every year and charging scale operators with cheating is simply mischief,” he said.
He said that contractors hired by SMCL to haul cane often did not turn up leaving bundles of cane for up to six days to dry.
(USD 1.00 = TTD 6.00)

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