Historically, nothing unites humans more than a common enemy. Be it the fear of nuclear weapons, oppressive superpowers, or evil.
Humans have always sourced strength in unity where necessary, especially when it comes to fighting for deliverance or freedom of any sort. However, once order is restored there is always a need for a resurgence or reinstallation of purpose, something to will society towards a mend as self-sufficiency becomes paramount.
There was a time of turmoil not too long ago which concluded courtesy of our forefathers' ability to recognise and utilise the strength in unity. Once the common enemy fell, there came the immediate need for a common solution, a path to a mend and this path we found in our sugar industry.
Let's address the elephant it the room of how mass production of sugar came to be.
Initially, the sugar plantations were built upon the backs of black slaves under the whips of white masters. These conditions were undoubtably inhumane and frankly embarrassing, considering humans allowed skin pigmentation to determine where we fell on the social stratum.
Once slavery was abolished, some saw the plantations as a reminder of grim circumstances. But thankfully, there were those who managed to see the plantations as opportunity. Our forefathers then made it a priority to corral everyone under the banner of a united front. Creolisation and their ability to identify the unproductivity in racial division enabled them to see us all as one. Soon thereafter, they coined our motto as a statement and a common solution to a common enemy – inequity.
A man's identity ought to be the quality of his character and not the shade of his skin. The great Bob Marley also pledged war on colour prejudice through his craft, most notably in is song titled War in which he said, “Until the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes, mi seh war.” This was a very powerful message as it poetically captured the socio-economic disparity in the island at the time.
So, it was rather alarming to hear even Usain Bolt share his experience with colour prejudice in his own country. Imagine having sacrificed so much to elevate your country on the world stage only to be looked down upon because of your skin tone.
For us to age and not progress is to regress, as racial prejudice has only shown more longevity than our resolve. Call yourself an Afro-Jamaican or Euro-Jamaican if you will, but Jamaican is just Jamaican from where I sit, and based on our motto our forefathers would concur.
Today, Jamaica's upper offices are occupied by the grandchildren of cane cutters. Much of our doctors, lawyers, and lawmakers that we hold in such high esteem are products of the independence our sugar industry afforded us. For many, the sugar industry was just another way forward, but for a community like Lluidas Vale in St Catherine North Western. It was the economic wheel. The village actually revolves around Worthy Park Sugar Estates.
Jamaica's brown sugar has a comparative edge which enables us to fetch decent prices on the world market. Comparatively, it trumps artificial sweeteners in demand, as it is of a much-desired quality. The operators in the Jamaican sugar industry are worthy of commendation for their contributions. However, we still import a significant tonnage of granulated sugar. Economically, there is merit as to why we import when we could simply refine our own, but this does not mean the option should leave the table.
Please note, I am not proposing that we revert to a time when sugar cane was our talisman. However, this and other industries in Jamaica have unrealised potential. Our sugar industry can be much more than it is, and I'd hate for this to become a case of foreign investors acknowledging and benefiting from our industry more than we do.
Irrespective of the overseer, it would be refreshing to see Jamaica cap out on its potential to tussle competitively and comparatively with other world leaders in production.
I hereby support any effort to award our sugar industry operators the backing they need to get the industry to the mentioned competitive potential. It is the least we can do, after the many years of stellar contribution to Jamaica's sugar industry.
Hugh Graham is CEO of Paramount Trading Company Ltd, and Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Western.