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Samuda says he meant manufacturers no harm

Friday, September 29, 2017

MINISTER of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda, in response to the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA) ultimatum to present evidence of alleged sugar leakage or apologise, has lamented that he did not intend to tarnish the reputation of the honest, hard-working members of the sector.

Samuda's statement follows a charge by president of the JMA, Metry Seaga, for him to stop making assertions which suggest that approximately 200 manufacturers involved in Jamaica's food sub-sector are guilty of importing duty-free refined (granulated) sugar intended, which is to be used in the manufacturing process, for the retail trade.

Seaga suggested that the minister either present the evidence of the companies involved in the illegal activity or retract the statement, which has caused some organisations, particularly GraceKennedy, to come under scrutiny from international customers.

“MICAF (Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries) and the JMA have agreed to work together to ensure that any possible sources of leakage of duty-free refined sugar intended for the manufacturing trade are identified and anyone found culpable will receive the maximum punishment under the law. This measure is really about protecting the country's revenue,” Samuda said in a joint statement with the JMA Wednesday.

Last week, Samuda announced the introduction of a ministerial order that will see the granting of licences to import refined sugar for the retail trade administered by the Sugar Industry Authority (SIA) shifted to three approved marketing agents.

According to Samuda, the measure was being taken in an attempt to “stop the leakage of refined sugar imported by manufacturers, duty-free, as raw material for manufactured products, from entering the retail trade”.

Under the new regime, the three agents — Pan Caribbean Sugar Company, Golden Grove Sugar Company, and Jamaica Cane Products Sales — will source, import, market, and distribute the product to other companies.

In the statement released on Wednesday, JMA restated its support for the change in regime to control the importation of refined sugar for retail, which the association had long proposed.

“The new regime for the labelling of sugar is consistent with measures previously proposed by the JMA. We continue to work with the ministry and pledge our full support for the ministry's move to implement proper packaging and labelling standards for sugar,” Seaga said.