In the face of skepticism about the future viability of an industry that was once the lifeblood of the economy, the sugar sector is on the verge of creating history this year.
While Barbados has traditionally exported raw bulk sugar to Britain and the European Union for direct consumption for many years, the state-owned Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) announced this afternoon that the country would for the first time this year, be selling the sweetener to the region, while satisfying the entire domestic demand.
“If all goes well, this is the first time we will be in a position to export to the region,” BAMC General Manager Leslie Parris told Barbados TODAY, adding that farmers had responded well to calls for them to increase acreage and cane production.
Without giving a figure Parris said a lot of the commodity would be sold at home, noting that the island had in the past been importing sugar to make up for the shortfall in local supplies.
“We have been moving towards a position to supply the entire island and to possibly export to the region. We have arrangements in place that, if successful, allows [sales] to the region as well because we are in a position now to satisfy the domestic market,” the BAMC boss emphasized.
Parris declined to identify the Caribbean countries to which the Barbados sugar would be exported, saying the negotiations were “at a rather delicate stage”.
“We don’t want to tip our hands because of the regional competition. All this was done in terms of protecting Barbados from the dumping of sugar by other countries since the international quotas fell away in October last year . . . .If we did not take measures to protect ourselves, we would be happy hunting ground for them,” Parris stressed, adding that those countries had cheap labour and a lower cost of production.
Meanwhile, as industry officials prepare to start the 2018 crop in early March, Parris told Barbados TODAY they expected a ten per cent to 15 per cent increase in cane and sugar output over last year’s production.
He revealed that this year, farmers were expected to produce 157, 771 tonnes of cane or 12,000 tonnes of sugar, compared with 132,845 tonnes of cane or 10,102 tonnes of sugar last year.
“The efforts of the farmers in terms of increasing their acreage and significantly improving their crop husbandry in spite of all the challenges they have faced over the last couple of years, they have responded very well and they are extremely committed and this has been demonstrated by the increased tonnage that we expect,” Parris stated.