Business

Sugar snub to $8.6-b credit

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 04, 2012    

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JAMAICA has, for nearly six years, sat on a US$100-million ($8.6 billion) credit line aimed at boosting the domestic sugar industry without using any of the funds made available by the Brazilian government.

Brazil's ambassador to Jamaica, Antonio F Da Costa e Silva Neto, yesterday said that no projects have been proposed to date.

"On the issue of the credit line, I have been talking with the (Government) on this, and what they are saying is that, yes, there was this commitment, but the commitment needs projects," explained Da Costa e Silva Neto.

"What they (the Brazilian government) are asking is, 'where are the projects?'" said the ambassador. "I think, on the issue on what we have agreed to with Jamaica, we need to sit down, go through the details and see exactly where we need to move forward."

He was responding to a query made by Jamaica Cane Products Sales General Manager Karl James at a Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica breakfast meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston. James later told the Jamaica Observer that, as far as he knows, the facility was not even activated.

"We need to find out whether it's still available and how to access it," James said. "I think the problem is with the Jamaican side."

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva concluded negotiations in July 2006 for the US$100-million line of credit to facilitate the importation of machinery and agricultural equipment for the rehabilitation of Jamaica's ailing sugar industry.

The assistance, which was to be accessed by the private sector, formed part of an overall programme with Brazil for the production of ethanol, renewable energy and the introduction of a new, high-yield variety of sugar cane in the island.

Da Costa e Silva Neto suggested that the issue of "interpretaion" might be a factor in the slowness of the take-up. He said similar misunderstandings have slowed a trilateral biofuels agreement — with Brazil and the US — signed some four years ago.

"We have gone through phase one of this project, which is actually a report where there are a number of recommendations made in terms of interpretation — that report was approved last year," said Da Costa E Silva Neto.

The ambassador added that "there are a number of things that the Jamaican Government needs to do in order for the agreement to go into phase two."

"We are working on it, and hopefully we will be able to see through the issues of interpretation — there is a lack of understanding of what is expected from different partners," noted the diplomat.

"From our part, we expect Jamaica to deliver on a number of those interpretations and recommendations, and I think that is the view of our US partners also... Jamaica and other countries seem to believe that for those interpretations to go through, we need to make a number of new commitments."

Jamaica, in 2008, was named among a group of countries to be included in the Tri-Lateral Co-operation in the area of Biofuels.

Then Energy Minister Clive Mullings said at the time that Jamaica's participation in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will propel the country further along the biofuels learning curve.

"The technical assistance and support that the governments of Brazil and the United States of America have committed to provide within the framework of this MOU will allow us to prepare the road map to satisfy our domestic demand from locally produced biofuels including biodiesel," Mullings said then.

The ambassador said yesterday that he recently met with current Energy Minister Phillip Paulwell, who was very adamant to that he wants to get the agreement "back on track".

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