(Jamaica Gleaner) Cane farmers were stunned into silence on Wednesday after Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw warned them against resisting the development of traditional sugar estates for other purposes.
“It’s not a time now for thinking in extreme,” Shaw told them at the 69th annual general meeting of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association at the Spanish Court Hotel, New Kingston.
“If some land is to be appropriated for more development – housing, commercial development, everything – let it guh! Development haffi gwaan. I’m here to be blunt with you. Okay?”
According to the minister, it is part of the rationalisation plans for traditional sugar lands.
He said there are thousands of applications for access to old sugar lands.
Delegates had travelled from the sugar-dependent parishes of Westmoreland, St Thomas, Clarendon, St Catherine and Trelawny to hear about plans for diversification and revival of the industry.
Earlier, Shaw had expressed words of empathy and encouragement to the farmers being displaced because of the reduction of sugar production.
“As Minister of Agriculture, I am profoundly aware that sugar cane farming has, for decades, been the bread and butter of many farmers in this sector. Many of you, no doubt, have a bitter-sweet relationship with the sector, but it remains your first and true love. I and the Ministry I lead, am prepared to partner with you and guide you through this period of transition,” he told them.
Unable to answer questions about the outstanding third payment due to farmers who supplied cane to the Monymusk Sugar Factory in Clarendon or give a definite answer as to whether government would commit to funding its operation for the next crop year, Shaw charged them to continue to plant cane.
The Opposition on Wednesday called on government to be more definitive with its plans for cane farmers and factory workers in Clarendon.
“An urgent decision must be taken as to whether the Monymusk Sugar factory in Lionel Town, Clarendon will be reopened for the current crop,” the Opposition said noting that the delay in making a decision was affecting the livelihood of more than 250 factory workers and their families.