ONLINE READERS COMMENT: Sugar researchers next on unemployment list in dying industry

Monday, June 24, 2019

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Dear Editor,

There is no secret that the Jamaica Sugar Industry is dying, and some may say the industry is actually in the burial stage. Regardless of what phrase is use, we all know that the Jamaican Sugar Industry is long past the glory days. Farmers are slowly switching to what they think are more profitable crops and currently only three factories are operational: Appleton that focus mainly on rum production; Frome that is yet to focus on co-generation; and Worthy Park that focus on sugar but have other profitable entities. Only time will tell when there will be no sugar centric factories remaining in Jamaica.


While the Sugar Industry slowly dies it will take many casualties with it. When Appleton downsized their operation in St Elizabeth in 2018, over 200 persons were left unemployed. The announcement of the closure of the Seprod-owned factory in St Thomas this year will leave another 150 persons unemployed. So, with constant closure and downsizing the Sugar Industry is pumping a lot of unemployed individuals into the society.


More persons will be unemployed soon, specifically the researchers and scientist that work at the Sugar Industry Authority – Research Division (SIA-RD) located in Mandeville. The SIA-RD was established in 1976 under the auspices of the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) with responsibility for research and developing methods to improve agricultural technology as it relates to sugar cane. Employed at the SIA-RD are scientist that are tasked with; determining cost of producing sugarcane, testing of agricultural machinery, developing new cane varieties, promoting safe use of herbicides and pesticides, pest and disease management, irrigation, technical services, agronomy etc.


As a past employee at the SIA-RD known as the Sugar Industry Research Institute (SIRI) then, my fellow scientist has worked assiduously in their respective areas to ensure that the sugar industry remained a float. There is a high probability that these scientists are the next casualties of the dying sugar industry.


The SIA-RD is funded by a five per cent cess on local sugar sales. With a shrinking industry this levy has also decreased. This is of importance to the remaining staff of the SIA-RD as the facility is on the brink of closure. Closing of such research facility would mean that many qualified and highly experienced individuals will be without job. The SIA-RD gets no funding from the government and it is time for them to step in.


The future of the SIA-RD lies in the hand of the government. STEM related jobs are usually glorified by the government however there is not many places for these persons to work in Jamaica. The minister needs to meet with the respective persons at the SIA to ensure the longevity of the SIA-RD. Or will the government cause such a noble institution to fall to the wayside?


Anonymous reader


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