(Barbados Nation) Barbados’ sugar industry is flat broke.
This gloomy assessment was made by industry spokesman Dr Attlee Brathwaite yesterday.
“The industry doesn’t have any money,” he told reporters. He was briefing the media on yesterday’s round of wage negotiations between the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) which he chairs, the Barbados Agricultural Management Company Ltd (BAMC) and the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC).
“If you look seriously at the type of revenue the industry has been getting over the years, you will appreciate that the industry had no money at the moment.
”The major problem is that sugar export prices have been below the cost of production.
“What it costs to produce a ton of sugar is a lot more than what we get paid for a ton of sugar,” he explained.
“What it costs to produce a ton of canes is a lot less than what farmers are paid for a ton of canes . . . which suggests that at the farm level the industry is losing money; at the processing level, at the BAMC level, the industry is losing money.
”BSIL represents a number of independent cane producers. BAMC manages about 40 per cent of the plantations as well as the two sugar factories.
For years, Government has been providing financial support for the industry and Brathwaite said further aid would have to be discussed.Government recently went to Parliament to guarantee repayment of Bds$160 million in bonds for BAMC.
Borrowing from banks
Brathwaite said BAMC had been borrowing from the banks to carry its operations until those bonds became operational.
“Indeed, the bulk of the money received under those bonds has already been used,” he admitted.
“As a matter of fact, I’ve been informed by management of BAMC that when you take into consideration what is left, given the need, really, to defray certain expenditure, only about Bds$3 million or thereabout will be left.”
He said substantial working capital was required for the industry between 2011 and 2013.
Funds were needed to continue servicing BAMC in the processing of the sugar canes.
There was also a need for investment capital “to get into the transformation of the industry”, according to Brathwaite.
BWU deputy general secretary Robert “Bobby” Morris, who shared the briefing with Brathwaite, said the owners of the sugar industry were “crying out for debt”.
It was “just a matter of time” before the industry was forced to restructure, he argued.