Rum direct from sugar cane can boost industry

Observer writer

Friday, June 22, 2018

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Experiments undertaken by National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ) to distil their rum directly from sugar cane juice, if successful, could result in increased jobs for local farmers and agricultural workers, while reviving the island's declining sugar industry.

Chairman of the board of directors at NRJ, Komal Samaroo, proudly declared that the company is “experimenting in growing cane primarily for rum production rather than growing cane for sugar production, and then using the molasses, which is a by-product, for rum”.

Samaroo made his case to Audley Shaw, minister of industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries last Thursday at a factory tour of Clarendon Distillers Limited — one of the three distillers which the NRJ controls.

Samaroo said that, currently, all distillers islandwide depend heavily on foreign molasses for rum production, as only 50 per cent of molasses, which is the main raw ingredient in rum production, is supplied by local farmers.

If the experiment works out, land would have to be secured locally for the production of sugar cane primarily for the purpose of being converted into rum.

Minister Shaw assured the NRJ members at the tour that, “the farmers are ready to plant and we have the land”.

“The time is now,” Shaw declared. “We need to get into some firm negotiations with farmers here.”

Commending the NRJ's initiative, Shaw told the Jamaica Observer that he believed the initiative could become a part of the Ministry of Agriculture's growth model going forward.

“To the extent that the sugar industry itself may be in decline, we have to step up the production of rum,” he commented. “Because one thing I know is that rum is in a growth mode globally. So here is an opportunity to take and run with it; in that regard, work with the farmers, work with our sugar holding companies to make sure we get land so that the small farmers can produce, medium-sized [farmers] can produce. And as discussed today with Moneymusk managers, we can work out a plan with the sugar factories [so] that they don't always have to use the by-product of sugar production, but in fact cane can be distilled directly for rum rather than going via the route of molasses.”

The NRJ, which is jointly owned by the Government of Jamaica, Demarara Distillers Limited of Guyana and West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados, is the producer of the Moneymusk Plantation brand of rums, which it has been producing since 2014.

Rhum agricole, as it is called, is the name of the rum produced from pressed sugar cane instead of molasses — a by-product from sugar production. It is the type made in the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and is known for its more earthy flavour.

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