Barbados has had a long tradition of producing some of the best quality sugar in the world.
However, although the industry remains an important contributor to foreign exchange earnings, rural employment and the environment, the removal of the European Union???s (EU) subsidies has meant that Barbados can no longer produce sugar competitively using its current model.
Moreover, according to recent market forecasts, a 30 per cent decline in world sugar prices is predicted in 2016, with no increases likely until 2020.
Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, as well as players in the industry, have recognised the need for a different approach. So far, one of the ways identified has been an increase in the production of ???direct consumption??? sugar.
This will involve more sugar being sold locally and regionally, as well as through high-value exports to major retailers in the United States, United Kingdom, (UK) the Middle East and even China.??In 2008, the West Indies Sugar Trading Company (WISTCO) was established as a partnership between the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) and players in the private sector, to further develop the sugar industry on the island.
So far, the company has developed a direct sugar consumption brand known as Plantation Reserve. This Barbados-produced sugar receives approximately three times the average world price, and the brand can be seen in retail stores in Barbados, the Caribbean, the UK and the EU. Plantation Reserve Sugar sachets can also be seen in a number of restaurants and hotels around the island.
Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, believes that direct consumption is indeed one of the ways forward if the sugar industry on the island is to make a turnaround.
???It has created BD$1.98m in added-value to the industry above the world sugar price in 2013. And while there has only been a limited amount of direct consumption sugar available to date, the success of the brand across multiple countries forms the basis for expanding direct consumption sugar production and creating a genuinely profitable industry in the future,??? Dr. Estwick indicated.
He continued: ???WISTCO will sell all of the approximately 2,000 megatonnes (MT) of direct consumption sugar that was produced by BAMC in 2015, around 15% of annual production. We are actively looking to drive a significant increase in the coming years in order to contribute further to the industry.
“Our sales projections for direct consumption are practical, achievable, and are based on increasing distribution worldwide based on our existing sales into retailers and manufacturers in Barbados, the Caribbean, UK and the European Union. In 2016, we project sales of 5,000 MT; in 2017, 8,000 MT; in 2018, 10,000 MT; and in 2020, 25,000 MT.???
The sugar industry in Barbados is in the first stage of its transformation, and to meet the projected figures for direct consumption, an excess of 250,000 MT of sugar cane will need to be grown across the island.??As the stakeholders in the industry seek to develop and explore markets for the Plantation Reserve brand, it is expected that this new venture will again show the world the quality of sugar that can be produced right here in Barbados.