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VIDEO: We can't eat

Duckenfield residents stress over closure of sugar factory

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

THERE is growing tension among residents in Duckenfield, St Thomas, following the decision to close the Seprod-controlled Golden Grove Sugar Factory later this week.

A total of 150 workers were made redundant, with countless spin-off jobs likely to be affected.

Seprod's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Pandoie pointed to the food manufacturing company's $4-billion loss since acquiring a majority share in the company in 2009.

But residents now fear that the factory's closure will cause an uptick in crime in the eastern end of the parish.

“Me is a youth who been here from mi likkle. Is 22 years mi been here in the area and mi can tell you this — a one of the worst moves ever. Nothing nuh deh 'round yah suh. Eastern lock down, Serge lock down, and now them a lock down this. Yuh have elders who right now, a bend them a bend fi cut cane, and you a tell mi seh this a go lock down. Weh them a go do?

“Nuff a them man yah right now a it them a survive off of. A killing a go gwaan, robbery, death. A nuh nuh joke thing, because guess what? We short of education so nuff go work dung a the factory. Yuh nuh affi have nuh subject and right now everything gone? A problem,” barber Kevron Brooks, who spoke on behalf of his family, told the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday during a visit to the area.

He is calling on the Government to come up with an interim plan until a solution to the unemployment woes is in place.

Winston Walker fears that “idle” young people in the community might find themselves in trouble with the law since they will likely be out of jobs.

“Right yah now wi want something else fi do. Right now back yah suh dead and wenuh see nothing a waan. The younger generation a come up and will want something fi do and nuh inna problem. Wi cyah feel good 'bout this because from wi born a back yah suh wi deh, you understand? Eastern used to deh deh suh, it shut dung. Suh right yah now wi affi just a wonder; wi can't eat, wi can't sleep, wi affi a fret because win nuh know what next — a that mi a tell you.

“Any weh you deh and nah work yuh can't feel happy. Yuh can imagine how much of wi deh yah suh and wi used to a year time, as bad as things be, if a even a six months wi gone cut cane. When the factory shut dung yah now it just comeen like seh bwoy wi tormented. Whole a wi deh pon road a day time nuh have nuh weh fi go and nothing fi do. Yuh soon hear seh police a beat man off a road. Everybody uncomfortable right now,” Walker stressed.

For many in Duckenfield, the sugar factory has been a mainstay since the 1940s.

Andrew Grace shared that he worked at the factory for close to 23 years, he told Observer North & East.

“Dem seh the crop done now [so] nothing nah gwaan again. Mi have a one son who just pass fi go high school outta Morant Bay and nothing nah gwaan. The factory weh wi grow up come know — my father usually work there as electrician — a lock down.

“Wi a blame the two side a politics to, because up to now I don't hear wi representatives come and tell wi nothing 'bout the next move or 'bout what going to [happen]. I don't hear none of them. Dr Fenton Ferguson is the MP (Member of Parliament) on the PNP (People's National Party) side and win nuh see him and we nuh see Andrew Holness either or even Audley Shaw as the agriculture minister — wi nuh see none a them. Wi only hear seh the factory a go lock down,” said Grace.

Efforts by Observer North & East to get a comment from Dr Ferguson and Shaw were unsuccessful as the politicians' phones rang without answer.

Steven Whynn said he had been working at the factory since the early 90s and said e wasn't surprised that the factory was shutting down its operation.

“It a go cause [an] impact. A just one a dem thing deh weh you have a go on fi a time and it a go close off now. Wah really happen now, mi think more coulda do in terms of the community,” said Whynn.

He said he had been bracing for the announcement for some time now, and had put measures in place to stave off the impact until he landed a job.

“It's like you heard that a hurricane coming and you prepare. That's what the news was like. Mi have some likkle avenues weh mi probably can venture off inna, like some small farming. Even the castor oil business we could venture into,” the man said.