Published 8 January 2021
Buckie Got It, St. Kitts and Nevis News Source
Despite an unfavourable business climate in Barbados due largely to restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much hope for an improved sugar harvest.
Both public and private sector stakeholders are upbeat about production for the 2021 crop, which they expect will start in mid-February.
Chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) Mark Sealy said this country is forecasting a 15 per cent increase in sugarcane output.
“Last year we did about 91,000 tonnes of cane, so it will be 15 per cent on top of that. Fifteen per cent is about another 14,000 tonnes of cane and that would put us at 105,000 tonnes. If the weather is good, then I think we would get a little bit more than that,” Sealy told Barbados TODAY.
While Sealy, who represents the independent cane farmers, said the canes “are looking pretty good,” he does not think Wednesday’s downpour was necessarily a good thing.
“We are getting a lot of rain…which is not necessarily a good thing, because we are hoping to start in February; but we still have to meet with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU). So that is a start that we would like. But it also depends on rainfall…because you don’t want to start cutting canes until the canes are absolutely ripe,” he said.
Sealy said they will be guided by the science regarding the right time to start, pointing out that the current amount of rain being experienced in January is unusual.
“But it should be a pretty good crop with reasonable weather now until the start of crop,” he added.
Chairman of the state-run Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC) Winston Best is also optimistic about output from this year’s crop.
“To start, we are still looking around mid-February. I expect that we should have a good crop. It is looking that way so far…but early days yet. Everything seems to be in place that we should be alright,” Best told Barbados TODAY.
The BAMC chairman was not in a position to provide statistics on projected production of cane or sugar and referred Barbados TODAY to his Chief Executive Officer Orlando Atherley.
However, Atherley said he was not authorized to speak and suggested that the Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir was the one to do so.
When reached, Minister Weir promised an update next week.
Asked how the field workers are likely to fare in this current COVID-19 environment, BAMC chairman Best and his BSIL counterpart Sealy indicated that there would be no slackening of the protocols which were in place for these workers from last year’s harvest.
“Last year we had some special dispensation. We had been treated as one of those essential services. I guess if we can get this spike here under control and we can get back to the numbers where we were, we probably should be able to manage it,” Best said.
“We had protocols in place from last year …social distancing, sanitization and masks where necessary. We have those protocols in place already and we did a good job. BAMC and all the farmers did a good job in finishing the crop in 2020 in a COVID environment. So we should be able to get through this year as well,” Sealy contended.