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'A national crisis' -- stakeholders say court ruling could prove devastating to sugar industry

Published:Friday | April 8, 2016 | 4:03 PMMark Titus
Derrick Heaven

Western Bureau:

Yesterday's decision by the Court of Appeal to uphold an injunction, which was sought by Algix Jamaica against the operators of the Appleton Estate sugar factory, in St Elizabeth, has sent shock waves throughout the local sugar sector, and has effectively blocked operation at the factory for the 2016 crop year.

Board chairman of Jamaica Cane Product Sales (JCPS), Ambassador Derrick Heaven said the implications of the ruling amount to a national crisis which requires urgent attention.

"I would hope that the authorities would immediately seek to convene a meeting of all the affected parties to see how this national crisis, which now results from the injunction can be mitigated with a view to satisfy the court and the entity which has brought the injunction." Heaven told The Gleaner yesterday.

"This is a sad day and I am not sure to what extent the national interest and Algix's interest have been taken into consideration, but this will have far-reaching national impact on the future of the sugar industry in Jamaica," he added.

effluent on fish farm

J. Wray and Nephew had appealed an interim injunction taken out by Algix Jamaica, which operates a fish farm in proximity to the sugar production facility, Appleton Estate. Appleton Estate is owned by J. Wray and Nephew. Algix Jamaica claimed that effluent from the factory was entering its fish farm.

In the aftermath of the filing of the injunction, cane farmers in communities surrounding the Siloah-based facility staged several days of protest, claiming the court action was a threat to their livelihood.

"We are troubled by the outcome of the appeal process. It means we are not able to resume sugar factory operations and our entire sugar crop for 2016 is at risk," said Clement 'Jimmy' Lawrence, chairman of J. Wray and Nephew Limited. "We hold firm in our defence that the company has not caused the damages being claimed by Algix and, in fact, during the course of the injunction hearing, NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) reported that it had seen no evidence that corroborated Algix's claims."

alleviating challenges

Lawrence also stated that in light of the ruling, the company was discussing the plight of the cane farmers with the All Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA) to determine how the challenges that will be faced by the independent cane farmers can be alleviated.

Allan Rickards, chairman of the AIJCFA, said he would welcome any form of intervention for the more than 2,000 registered cane farmers operating in the area, but said millions would be lost.

"Those farmers are in deep. deep trouble because they are set to lose almost $300 million combined from not reaping the crop, plus the cane will deteriorate for the next crop and losses from that is in the region of $90-$100 million," Rickards told The Gleaner.

Despite the injunction, J. Wray and Nephew had given an assurance that it would retain the services of its employees.