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Caroni Was Never a Drain on the Treasury

By Stephen Kangal
August 20, 2007

The Sugar Cane Industry is now proving to be economically viable. But Government will not help the farmers (The Sugar Cane Co-operative) in their current proposals/ collaboration with a French Company because it will show PNM's foolishness, lack of foresight and politically motivated spite.

The PNM Government finds itself between a rock and a hard place on the revival of the Sugar Cane Industry because they are torn between the imperatives of economics and politics and the latter always takes precedence.

The principal reason given for the closure of Caroni Ltd by the Manning Government in 2003 was that it was a drain on the Treasury to the extent of $200m annually. After closing Caroni and giving their friends all the moving equipment they have now proceeded to the termination of the entire sugar industry by causing the private cane farming community to cease the planting of sugar cane. Sugar was always a problem with the culture of the PNM because they do not understand agriculture and food production.

There are no viable alternatives available to these farmers for the use of their former sugar growing lands. My cousins in Munroe Road do not know what to do with their lands. The unilateral closure of the sugar industry by the PNM must be viewed in a certain context.

It is another example of dictatorial governance by PM Manning. It is in keeping with the silly decision to bring 3 aluminum smelters against the wishes of the people, the firing of the CJ prematurely, the proposed $20bn Rapid Rail, the installation of expensive radar in foreign countries like St.Vincent, St. Lucia and Grenada, the non-revenue earning skyscrapers in POS. All these are examples of one-manship- of power play. The feelings of the people can go to hell. PNM is in charge and voter/house padding is the answer.

That is why this foolish Manning Government must be stopped at the next elections. The Congress under Winston Dookeran must be put in its place. Wendy Lue Yuen will revolutionize our agricultural base and feed us from 5 loaves and two fishes. T&T is a multicultural society. There are ethnic sensitivities that must be respected by all governments. When the Indian Community celebrates Indian Arrival they are in fact celebrating their arrival on the Cane fields of Caroni. The lands of Caroni were an expression of the Hindu concept of Dharti Mai.

That is why the Indian Community stayed in sugar up today. It was not degrading- nor slavery. The cane farmers ( the Cane Farmers Co-operative Society under Ramdeo Ramcharan in association with a French Company) want to rescue the sugar cane industry by making a proposal to Government to buy the St. Madeleine Sugar Factory to convert bagasse into paper and cellulose. The farmers realise that land, labour and capital are the source of sustainable wealth and the prosperity of Trinidad and Tobago.

They know that the earth is Mother Earth- Dharti Mai.

In no part of the world, especially in France would any Government be allowed to put 10,000 sugar workers and 15,000 cane farmers on the bread line without a long and bruising struggle. The PNM can do that because they know that Indians will not rise up and riot to protect their livelihood. That is what Emmanuel Annisette of the SWWTU meant when he threatened Government when they wanted to privatise the port. He said that they the PNM will not be allowed to do at the port what evil they visited on the people of Caroni.

The PM Manning boasts that his best decision was the closure of Caroni. Ten thousand nationals on the roti line is his best decision. Such callousness! The closure of BWIA and the re-employment of the same workers to run Caribbean Airways after paying millions in severance is a good decision also.

The sugar industry was the reason for:
  • Our History, the Politics and the Sociology of T&T
  • The composition of Our Multicultural Society
  • The success of our food manufacturing sector and cheap sugar for households
  • Rural life and development
  • Some measure of food security, agricultural diversification and rural drainage systems
  • The livelihood of over 300,000 people in Central and South Trinidad
  • The Rum and Molasses Industry
  • The rise of the grow- box agricultural vegetable industry from bagasse.
I suggest that all of these factors had to be taken into account and assessed before any decision to close sugar was taken. But no this is the era of PNM intransigence- of PNM insensitivity.

Let us try to quantify what a Government $200 m annual subsidy to Caroni brought to us in T&T and what and more the industry can contribute to T&T again were good sense to prevail again. This is to show the foolishness of the PNM because it is happening every day.
  • It kept 10,000 rural sugar workers and 15,000 cane farmers in gainful and productive employment. Compare this with the $3bn CEPEP/URP budget to finance 5,000 part time mainly urban- suburban employees who paint stones white, build a few drains and sidewalks and finance the gang warfare and the crime pandemic. It also creates PNM millionaires.
  • A rural community of over 300,000 was dependent on the operations of the industry for their economic survival
  • The foreign exchange earned by the industry from export sales was US $175 m annually.
  • Recreation grounds and drainage systems were maintained by Caroni Ltd at no cost to the Government.
  • Aerial spaying of canes kept the mosquito infestation at bay and protected farmers' plantations also from the frog hopper infestation.
  • Government annually took lands from Caroni Ltd that was valued more than their annual subvention of $200m. So that Caroni was no drain on the Treasury. Government paid for electricity, water and telephones from 3 State Enterprises but not for the lands taken from Caroni Ltd. Caroni was a freeco- a feeding trough for land for Government.
  • The success of our rum industry was based on Caroni to the extent that Angostura is today now planting sugar in Barbados on 17,000 acres to get molasses and sugar for their profitable rum and ethanol industry.
What is the position of the sugar cane industry? The Congress policy on creating a future for the sugar cane industry is based on the fact that our petro-resources are wasting assets and we must plan for this decline of the main drivers of the economy today.

At the current period when the T&T Government is closing and conducting the last rites of the sugar industry the following new economic prospects have now surfaced:
  • Farmers can get more than $300.00 per tonne of cane instead of the $210 that they now receive to be diverted for ethanol production.
  • Ethanol consumption as a automobile bio- fuel is on the rise in Western countries and prices are on the rise and not subject to price fluctuations.
  • Bagasse can produce fine printing paper, cellulose etc
  • The rum made directly from the cane juice is superior and of a higher quality than that from distilled from molasses.
  • Sugar is not the main product earner of the sugar cane industry any longer.
  • The cane- tops can support a thriving dairying and livestock industry.
  • The possibilities of the sugar cane industry are enormous given our abundance of arable undulating terrain.

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