Govt moves to refine sugar imports
The introduction of fundamental changes to the regime on refined sugar importation for the retail trade announced by Karl Samuda, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture, and fisheries, on Wednesday, awaits his signature on a Ministerial Order under the Trade Act.
The Ministerial Order will pave the way for a major shake-up of the system, which now allows anyone to apply to the trade board for a permit to import refined (granulated) sugar for retail use, which attracts a 129 per cent duty charge. However, for manufacturers who use the sweetener as input for their products, there is no additional charge.
Going forward, the granting of licences to import refined sugar for the retail trade will now be administered by the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) to the three approved marketing agents, all of which are involved in the manufacture of sugar cane. These are the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, the Golden Grove Sugar Company, and Jamaica Cane Products Sales, which will continue to import on behalf of the Appleton and Worthy Park sugar estates.
Plug sugar leakage
The SIA will not import any refined sugar, but instead, will grant the licences to qualified entities, which will source the product, import, market, and distribute it to other companies. All of the refined sugar hitting retail shelves will be packaged and labelled in the same way as brown (raw) sugar.
Samuda used a press conference at his New Kingston office to explain the rationale behind the policy change.
"This is an additional strategy being pursued to stop the leakage of refined sugar, imported by manufacturers, duty free, as raw material for manufactured products, from entering the retail trade," he disclosed.
Conditional support from JMA
The Gleaner pressed Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries Karl Samuda yesterday about the number of manufacturers implicated in illegal action linked to the importation of refined sugar and the action taken by his ministry, but he was unable to provide specifics.
"Well, I can't tell you the exact number that has been implicated, but I am advised that there is sufficient evidence that it has taken place," he said, turning to Karl James for assistance, but the chairman of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean was not up to speed on the issue either. "Well, I know that they have been doing some investigations, but I am not up on what they have found," he admitted.
However, Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, was quick with the answer. "The answer is zero," he told The Gleaner.
Over the years, Seaga has challenged James as well as the Government to provide proof of this criminal act by member organisations, with the assurance that he would support any effort to bring the miscreants to justice. He, however, gave conditional support to the pending initiative.
"The three marketing companies will be the three allowed to distribute, market, and package, and anybody that is in the retail trade that doesn't have one of those three packages and has sugar on the shelf that is not packaged, they are in big trouble. We support it once it is that."