Struggling Clarke's Town bemoans king Sugar
In the era when sugar cane held pride of place in many sugar-producing communities across the island, the community of Clarke's Town in Trelawny, which had all of 10 sugar factories, was a bustling township with a solid economic base.
However, with local sugar facing an uncertain future and the Long Pond Sugar Factory, which was a symbol of Clarke's Town economic strength, only poised for a three-month crop this year, the rural township appears to be dying a slow death.
"Sugar and Clarke's Town have been operating hand-in-hand for decades ... without sugar, Clarke's Town will not only suffer, I believe it will die," said a former employee, who asked not to be named, fearing such an exposure could hurt her chances of being recalled for the impending three-month 2015-16 crop year.
When the Western Focus visited the factory last week, no senior managers were seen at the plant. However, there were signs that preparation was taking place to reopen the factory.
A truck driver, who identified himself only as 'Bigga', who said he has been transporting sugar cane to the factory for several years, spoke glowingly of the "good old days" at Long Pond.
"It might seem as nothing, but Long Pond is the pulse of this region .... and those who depend on its operation, whether directly or indirectly, are all praying that someone serious will offer to take it over," said Bigga, albeit noting that he was not optimistic about the factory's future.
Like most residents of Clarke's Town, renowned cane farmer Delroy Anderson, whose association with Long Pond dates back over 60 years, says he has many pleasant memories of the glory days of sugar in the rural township.
"In those days, every child from this area was schooled through money generated from sugar; this town was built as a result of the sugar operations from Long Pond and Vale Royal estates," said Anderson. "Those were very good days ... every business could confidently invest or expand, knowing that with the season starting, their little business would be thriving.
" ... but today there is no enthusiasm, no excitement ... residents now see sugar as a very sick patient in need of intensive care," noted Anderson. "I doubt that Government will able to rescue Long Pond ... for many of us, the future looks dark."
- M. T.