|(Microsoft Clip Art)
The way forward for the local sugar sector is its development into a sugar cane industry and steps are in train to implement such a process.
This was disclosed by Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick while on a half-day tour at Sustainable Barbados Recycling Centre Inc. in Vaucluse, St. Thomas, earlier this week. ??The event formed part of activities for World Food Day 2011.
Dr. Estwick said even though there were challenges with sugar production in Barbados such as lower yields, it would not be feasible to abandon the crop entirely.
"We are having declining yields. These not only relate to management issues but also agronomic practices which we need to bring into the modern age… It is clear to me that we cannot [sit by and] do nothing and we cannot allow all of our sugar cane lands to go to pasture or we can’t allow them to grow into bush or go into other crops…," he noted.
Dr. Estwick pointed out that deriving value added products from the sugar cane plant instead of focusing exclusively on sugar production could have significant benefits for the Barbadian economy.
"[Based on] the studies that we have done…we are confident that if we produce ethanol and replace the …additive, we can save Barbados about US $23 to $30 million per year in terms of foreign exchange," he stated.
The Agricultural Minister added that Barbados was also exploring the development and exportation of special types of sugar.
"The special sugars we are now producing, the export potential of those has been growing significantly. In 2009, we were exporting 700 tonnes and the projection for this financial year is heading towards 3000 tonnes and we are only tapping into the diaspora market in the United Kingdom. We have not even looked at the diaspora market in the United States or Canada or even further afield. Those two products alone have significant potential," Dr. Estwick maintained.
He, therefore, stressed that the marketing strategy for the local sugar industry must be changed to reflect the focus on value added products and the needs of regional and domestic markets.