Illegal cane fires can wipe out families - Samuda
The police are being urged to take a firm stand against persons who illicitly burn sugar cane, which has resulted in significant loss of income for farmers.
Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Karl Samuda, said cane farmers must be protected against the practice, which can sometimes "wipe out" the means of survival for entire families and communities.
"Illicit burning of sugar cane is destructive to the foundation of our economy. It is unpatriotic and it is very discouraging for those who work tirelessly to keep the industry going. And apart from that, it is criminal and they should be put in prison for the actions they are undertaking," he said.
Samuda was speaking at a media briefing at the ministry's offices in Kingston recently.
"I am appealing to all well-thinking workers within the industry and those [close to it], to cease this hideous practice of burning cane illicitly, because it results in loss," he said, adding that small farmers are most seriously impacted.
He explained that sugar cane needs to be harvested and milled immediately after being burnt, to be useful for sugar production.
Still, Samuda said he is hopeful that Jamaica will see significant improvement in sugar cane production this year.
He said due to increased rainfall and overall good weather conditions over the past year, the industry is in a "much better place".
"We are going to have a much better crop this year. In addition, the price of sugar has increased, making it far more viable today than it was a year ago, and we are all more hopeful that it will continue to rise," Samuda said.