Cane cutters reap sweets at Abbey

St Nicholas Abbey has so far harvested 90 tonnes of sugar cane since it started grinding on January 5.

This was revealed by Larry Warren, owner of the 1658 Jacobean mansion, and the St Nicholas Abbey Heritage Railway located in Cherry Tree Hill, St Peter.

“It is going well. We crush about 15 tonnes of cane per week. We were the first plantation to start [harvesting] our crop from January 5 and we’ve been grinding cane since then,” he told the Nation, adding they will be continuing until the end of May.

He said that so far they have paid out $10 800 in labour, with cane cutters earning $120 per tonne. Their 33-man operation also includes grinders.

Warren said many people had criticised his operation after he put out an advertisement for cane cutters last December, but stressed cane cutting was a part of the Barbadian heritage.

“Yet, I see many ads in the newspaper for cotton pickers. It makes me laugh and I am thankful for [historian] Trevor Marshall who spoke positively about the fact that people worked hard and made a living [cutting canes] and there was nothing wrong with it.

“We had a lot of young people apply for the position. It was really amazing how many young people applied. In the end, we were looking for mature people who had had experience in cutting canes, and we eventually found two people,” he said.

Warren said their rum sales had also increased with the return of tourists to the island.

“We have seen an uptick. It was slow towards the end of last year, but we’ve seen an uptick in January and so far for February. That coincides with visitor arrivals because we sell 99 per cent of our rum at St Nicholas Abbey,” he noted.

The three-cab train travelling across St Nicholas Abbey plantation on its inaugural run back in January 2019. (FILE)

In terms of the railway, he said that too “has been pretty good with the cruise ships”.

“We recalibrated our opening days to coincide with the cruise ship arrivals. We close on Tuesdays and are open all other days because Tuesdays is the one day that there are pretty much no cruise ships in Barbados,” he explained.

Last October, Member of Parliament for St Peter Colin Jordan, members of the Soroptimists International of Jamestown, officials from the Ministry of Environment, and members of the Barbados Coast Guard and Barbados Cadet Corps, planted 100 cherry trees at the picturesque plantation. Warren said the trees had already doubled in height, and he was looking forward to when they would start bearing fruit.

At the time, Warren had noted there were no more cherry trees in Cherry Tree Hill, but there were wild cherry trees on the way to the site and one tree in the Abbey which bore abundantly at least three times a year. He added the fruit picked was usually used to make their jams. (RA)

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