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Jamaica Sugar Industry in Crisis as Drought Worsens

Sugarcane fields in sunset.KINGSTON, Jamaica- The Sugar Industry Authority (SIA), says the multi-billion dollar sugar industry is now under major threat due to the effects of the worsening drought.

SIA chairman, Ambassador Derrick Heaven, says the next crop could be in jeopardy with the forecast of below average rainfall for the rest of the year coinciding with replanting of the crop.

“When you drive around and look at fields and you see them literally scorched, and it’s not just the absence of rain, but it’s the high winds that further helps with the evaporation of any moisture. So the sugar industry is suffering as a result of the absence of rain and unless we get relief soon then we are in for some serious dislocation,” Heaven said.

Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will be implementing a J$30 million (one Jamaica dollar = US$0.004 cents) drought mitigation project for farmers across the island next week.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Donovan Stanberry, said the project will involve the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), farmers and political representatives.

Stanberry said the government is also investing in rainwater harvesting systems, and looking to build micro-dams through its climate change program.

Jamaica has been grappling with a crippling drought for several weeks and the Water Minister, Robert Pickersgill, recently announced new restriction measures.

“I have instructed the National Water Commission to issue a prohibition notice, by this weekend, on the washing of vehicles, the watering of lawns and filling swimming pools, among other activities,” he told parliament.

Persons found breaking the rules will be taken to court and could also be fined.

The lack of water also prompted nurses at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in downtown Kingston to walk off the job on Thursday. Surgeries at the maternity hospital were also canceled.

The nurses returned to work when water was restored later.


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