Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bdos: Sweet changes needed

If Barbados’ sugar industry is to survive in the changing global economic climate, it has to undergo a radical change by reducing the costs of some of its inputs as well as developing a viable industry using by-products of the sugar cane plant.

Member of Parliament for St. Philip South and Minis-ter of Energy and Public Utilities, Anthony Wood, said while the production of sugar had declined significantly since the 1950s, the industry still generated some $44.8 million in revenues over the past year and employed some 5 200 people.

Wood, a former Minister of Agriculture, stated that the decline in sugar came about with the development of new industries in the 1960s such as tourism, manufacturing and more recently the financial services sector, as well as the fact that producing sugar was no longer profitable for some landowners.

He said Barbados could no longer concentrate solely on producing bulk sugar for export to the European market, especially since there were a number of countries now challenging the ACP /EU Sugar Protocol in the current trade liberalisation climate. Wood stated that the ACP/EU Sugar Protocol was due for review in June 2006 and following the review the process might take three different paths, none of which would be helpful to the local sugar industry. These included a continuation of the present arrangements, a reduction of the European Union’s internal price or liberalisation of the existing regime. Wood added that Brazil, Thailand and Austra-lia, all of whom were major sugar producers with lower labour costs than Barbados were presently challenging the ACP/EU Protocol, and that some of the ten Central and Eastern European countries that recently joined the EU were also sugar producers.

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