Sugar Cane Farmers in Jamaica Expect 10% Loss Due to Hurricane Sandy

Worthy Park and Golden Grove sugar factories can expect production levels to fall by more than 10 per cent because of effects from Hurricane Sandy, says the head of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers Association (AIJCFA) Alan Rickards, who said “Worthy Park is not a pretty sight. They will have some serious setback in terms of breakage of canes.”

Gordon Clarke, director and distillery manager at Worthy Park, said most of the damage was at the Lluidas Vale fields, which is where the majority of the cane delivered to the factory is planted. The estate also plants on lands at Bog Walk and Caymanas Estates. Clarke said the area was affected by mostly wind, which “does not kill the cane but it will affect the yields“.

Peter McConnell, managing director of Worthy Park Estate, said heavy winds affect the root systems of the plants and that the leaves become shattered, which eventually causes the cane to stop growing. Additionally, the canes tend to lie on the ground during such weather events, and since each joint has a growing eye it will grow a new stalk at each eye that touches the soil, McConnell said.  Overall, this will lower the sucrose content of the cane. “We are estimating that the reduced yield could mean a drop in revenue of over J$160 million as we will make maybe about 2,000 tonnes of sugar less, using the current prices,” said Clarke. [. . .]

Rickards said the cane farmers in St Thomas were badly affected by the hurricane, including the farms of Fred M Jones Estate, a minority partner in the Golden Grove Sugar Factory. Seprod is the majority owner. Rickards said that the water table is high in St Thomas, especially in areas farmed by FM Jones, and that the rains from Sandy would cause the water table to rise even higher. [. . .] However, Rickards said Golden Grove has already adjusted its projection to start reaping in December and has pushed back the start date for reaping to late January.

[. . .] The cane farmers supplying Appleton Estate in St Elizabeth were also hit by Sandy but not as badly as St Thomas and St Catherine. “Appleton is prone to flooding, and I am understanding that some flooding happened down there but it was not too devastating,” Rickards said. In other areas such as Trelawny and Westmoreland, the AIJCFA chairman said the rains from Sandy were a “blessing”.

“Two extremes,” he said. “Sandy was welcome showers for some and for others it was a nightmare. Sandy was welcome in Trelawny as there are not many indications of damage in that area. Yes, some of the older canes got a little shaken up but the rain was good for the most part because they had several very hot and dry months.”

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