BSIL bemoans ‘lost’ month

This year’s sugar crop is expected to yield another increase, but the head of the sugar producers is far from happy that it will begin more than a month after the preferred starting time.

Chairman of the Barbados Sugar Industry Limited (BSIL) Mark Sealy told the Saturday Sun yesterday that though the 2024 crop could surpass the 90 000 tonnes of sugar produced last year, he still would have preferred for cane to start grinding on or before February 15.

He said he believed that this year’s late start may still lead to diminishing sucrose content in canes reaped, which does have an effect on the overall level of sugar produced.

His comments came after the head of the Barbados Energy and Sugar Company Limited, retired Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Browne, revealed that grinding at the Portvale Factory in St James will finally start on Monday.

“At the end of the day, this is nothing new,” Sealy said about the crop finally starting.

“We say every year, you have to start the crop, at the latest, by February 15, and that doesn’t mean that at February 15 all the cane is polling at the rate you want. Things start slowly and then you get into the rhythm. That has to be taken into account. Hopefully, it will be all systems go on Monday because we can’t afford to start any later.”

Sealy revealed that the canes staying in the ground this late had also been affected by vermin, with rats starting to have a field day.

Estimates higher

“The estimates are higher because we have more acres (planted) in cane. I think we got 90 000 tonnes last year and we were looking at 95 000. But we don’t know what effect the weather has had. Remember, we had that very hot spell between September and October (last year) and it was a real drought. We’re not quite sure how that would affect some of the ratoon cane,” he said.

The BSIL chair said that weather may also have affected the 2025 crop. which involves an 18-month planting cycle.

“We also have to take into account how much this delay will affect the cane, and especially the tonnes of cane to tonnes of sugar produced.

“As you start to move past the ideal sugar content in the cane, it gradually starts to diminish. The cane goes rotten and we’re getting reports that the rats are getting into the fields and destroying the canes a little bit because the cane is very, very sweet now.”

Sealy said that in spite of the late start, the sector remained hopeful.

“I’m hoping that we can still do better than last year. This year was a transition year and there were challenges, but the main thing going forward is we need to definitely start earlier, by February 15.”

Yesterday, Browne told the Starcom Network that most things were in place for Monday’s start.

“This week, all the final touches, with getting licences in place and insurance, are being done. I expect reaping to start in earnest on Monday.”

He added that he expected this year’s crop to produce about ten per cent more sugar than in 2023.

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