King Sugar At Death's Door In Trinidad & Tobago~Will Barbados Follow Suit?

Prime Minister Patrick Manning has vowed that sugar workers will never return to cutting cane as long as he is Prime Minister. “That is going back to slavery,” said Manning, whose statement brought strong criticism from two of the major stakeholders in the industry yesterday.
Source: Trinidad Express

manning.jpgIt seems that Prime Minister Patrick Manning listened to the now deceased Prime Minister Errol Barrow of Barbados when he delivered the ‘no cane blade’ speech. The announcement by Prime Minister Patrick Manning that his party, the People National Movement (PNM) is committed to dismantling the sugar industry has sparked a raging debate in Trinidad and Tobago on the eve of a general election to held on November 05, 2007. As you would expect the rival opposition political parties, the UNC Alliance and the COP have announced differing positions; if elected they have promised to pump millions of dollars into the gasping sugar industry. Our readers should be interested in this development because there is a parallel that can be drawn to what is happening in Barbados. The Barbados government has been struggling to make the correct decisions concerning the future of the sugar industry over the years. Depending on whom we listen to they are some who suggest that Barbados should follow T&T’s lead.

Maybe we will when we find the OIL!

 

Readers of the statement quoted above maybe startled by the colorful language of Prime Minister Manning given the association with the word slavery. It does not take much for black people to react emotionally at the mere mention of THAT word. We are aware that Prime Minister Manning’s statement must be contextualized given the cosmopolitan landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. We made it our business to canvas our friends in Trinidad and Tobago and to monitor discussion on the ground, people seem to be split on Manning’s PNM plan for the sugar industry. Trinidad and Tobago is in the privileged position of earning high revenues from oil and therefore has the luxury of being able to trash the sugar industry. Barbados unfortunately is not in the same position and we have had to find ‘bogus’ reasons to justify the existence of an industry which has lost its way. We expect to hear the tired argument that sugar is responsible for generating much needed foreign exchange for the treasury of Barbados, and in the absence of an alternative crop we should continue to prop-up the sugar industry.

Even if BU is persuaded and buys into the argument that sugar equates to much needed foreign exchange for the coffers of Barbados, we would still agree with Patrick Manning that the legacy which King Sugar has for islands like Barbados and T&T is highly destructive and can retard the transformation to the touted service economy. The sugar industry symbolizes the pain and suffering of our ancestors by white people, SLAVERY. How is the continued support for the sugar industry affecting the psychological health of our black societies? Why should our islands continue to prop-up the sugar industry which reminds us of so many things we wish to forget? We agree 100% with Prime Minister Manning to jettison the sugar industry which has outlived its value in the era of globalization.

Prime Minister Owen Arthur is known to be a man who believes in using ‘symbols’ to promote awareness of our black heritage among Barbadians.We all know that our government continues to support the sugar industry which is on it death bed, for political reasons. We anticipate that Sir Roy would be pissed if Arthur showed the same ‘balls’ as Manning.

We have never been a great admirer of Prime Minister Manning but he has grown in our eyes given his commitment to ‘burn Mr. Harding’.

8 comments

  • This is yet another case of opposition parties opposing for opposing sake. Why would T&T which is a petro rich country want to persist with the sugar industry which is in need of major mechanization , world prices are at an all time low for the raw product and because of globalization the support from the EU community has all but disappear.

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  • Concerned Citizen

    T&T has oil and what Barbados has? If Barbados abandons sugar what will replace it David?

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  • notesfromthemargin

    Really, how much does Sugar contribute? I would say these days the best argument for supporting the industry is as a supplier of mollasses to the Rum manufacturers.

    However the Plantation Reserve strategy is interesting. We make such a small amount of sugar it is conceivable that we could peg our industry on “specialty sugars” .

    I can’t support you David that the legacy of Slavery is a valid argument in this matter. If you want to go that route you would very shortly be disowning all agriculture and much of the service economy. I think we have to look at these economic decisions with cold objectivity.

    As for PM Mannigi’s speech? I get very wary of politicians who try to push emotional hot buttons, it makes me feel that they think their argument is too weak to stand on its own.

    Marginal

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  • David, the problem is one of agricultural economics. Our sugar will never be competitive in comparison to China and Brazil. However, and here’s the real problem but the same is true of ANYTHING that we produce – we simply don’t have the economies of scale or vast pools of cheap labour to do so. However, we can compete in niche markets which are not based soley on price. Look at rum – Brazil can produce it for a fraction of the price but don’t have a product to compete with the up-scale MountGay brand. And what would we do in place of sugar ? A different crop is going to be exactly the same – uncompetitive – for exactly the same reasons. There’s only so many golf courses and condos we can build and leaving the land to turn to scrub isn’t exactly appealing. I don’t really see an alternative to finding niche markets where some of our products can compete globally. Want to get rid of sugar ? Fine, but there’s got to be a convincing alternative. The problem with focusing on tourism to the exclusion of everything else is that it causes envirnmental damage (next time your car stalls in Holetown flooding, think about the impact of removing cane from St. James) and ends up making us reliant on a single industry, much as sugar was 100 years ago. As for the slavery angle, go talk to those involved and running the industry today – or even working the fields. Nobody’s working for massa any more and most of the old plantations have gone bust.

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  • For Barbados the issue for this government or the next would be…….does it really believe it can enter the Ethanol industry ?

    The DLP has already stated that Barbados does not have enough land capacity to successfully engage in such production.

    While the BEES state that is is feasible……while Owen Arthur sells the lands to the highest bidder to ” pay the bills ” he and his BLP thugs have racked up……!

    That been the case what will be left for future sugar cane production ?

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  • Well said James…

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  • THEIR IS ALL THIS TALK ABOUT THE IMPACTS NEGATIVELY ECONOMICALLY WHAT ABOUT THE SOCIAL IMPACTS , SUCH AS THE PARTIAL TAKING AWAY OF THE INDIAN CULTURE,THE INDIANS WERE REFERED TO AS COOLIES TO SOME IT WAS OFFENSIVE BUT TO OTHERS IT REPRESENTED THEM AS A AN EHTNIC GROUP BECAUSE OF THEM BEEN THE LABOURERS ON THE FEILD

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  • Hindsight may be 20/20 but almost 2 years later and the price of sugar is now at a 28 year high.

    Don’t slash and burn those bridges just yet. If is does not sell as sugar …make Ethanol or export it to Trinidad…we’ll need it soon.

    As for the slavery rhetoric when you are handed lemons make lemonade!!

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