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(CMC) Caribbean countries produced an estimated 418,000 tonnes of sugar for the 2016-17 period, according to a statement released by the Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) on Wednesday. It said the figure surpassed the projected figure of 406,000.

The SAC, which groups the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), the Belize Sugar Industries Limited,(BSIL) Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc (GUYSUCO), and Sugar Manufacturing Corporation of Jamaica Limited (SMCJL) said the production figures demonstrate the region’s own capacity to supply the regional market, estimated at 320,000 tonnes for both brown and white sugar, and supports the argument for tariffs to be applied to imported sweeteners.

The SAC said that at its 167th Annual Board Meeting in Belize last week, the directors reaffirmed their plans to continue to supply the needs of the regional sugar market for both brown and white sugar and that it had held talks with officials of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council of Trade and Development (COTED) in Guyana earlier this month to sensitise them on this issue.

SAC said it has noted that all other regional markets preserve their sugar industries through application of an import tariff, which permits their industries to be competitive.

“Regional producers requested of CARICOM a uniform application of the 40 per cent Common External Tariff (CET) on all imported sweeteners.

“The four regional producers have the capability to supply the full market requirements and we plan to increase our outreach efforts to all stakeholders who use sugar to make the case for the application of the CET and to discuss with them how best to do so for the benefit of both producers and users,” said SAC Chairman, Karl James.

The statement said that the SAC board of directors also discussed the effect that the removal of domestic production quotas in the European sugar market as of October 1, 2017 will have on prices.

“Surplus EU sugar from the last crop has resulted in a fall in prices and this has impacted regional producers, as current prices are not remunerative. This has the potential to close factories and result in negative socio-economic consequences, hence the imperative to preserve the regional market for regional producers”.

The SAC statement noted that different strategies were being employed by its member countries to add value to their product and that the producers have also announced that they have begun in earnest to produce value added sugar products.

“For years, Belize has been producing sugar of 99.5 pol, which is the international benchmark for refined sugar. In Jamaica, all retail sugar is now pre-packaged and labelled, and Barbados is producing direct consumption sugar to supply export customers and also various grades of packaged sugar, including sachet packs for the retail trade and the catering industry,” the SAC said.

In addition to sugar products, BSIL has invested in co-generation that has allowed it to supply 11 megawatts of power to the national grid and has plans to increase this supply shortly.

The statement said that during their meeting in Belize, SAC officials visited the Santander Sugar Company which produces sugar for the export market and expecting to produce 60,000 tonnes of sugar in 2017/18.

It said Santander also plans to produce white sugar for the regional market and has plans to use technology, such as GPS and drones to prepare fields and monitor production.

“They have illustrated how technology can be used in agriculture to achieve high levels of efficiency to maximise returns. They want to make the Caribbean region a model for efficient sugar cane and sugar production and have invested their money accordingly.

“This is like a breath of fresh air to the regional sugar industry,” the SAC statement noted.

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LONDON (AP) — European officials see Britain’s performance in Brexit negotiations as confused and chaotic, a leaked Irish government document says.

Irish broadcaster RTE published details Thursday of a confidential document from Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs compiling reports from Irish diplomats across the European Union.

One quoted Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jakub Durr as saying “he felt sorry for British ambassadors around the EU trying to communicate a coherent message when there is political confusion at home.”

Latvian government officials are cited as saying “the biggest problem is the chaotic political situation in the U.K. government.”

Ian Forrester, a British judge at the European Court of Justice, reportedly bemoaned “the quality of politicians in Westminster” during a meeting in Luxembourg, and wondered whether the British public would come to view Brexit as “a great mistake.”

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(Trinidad Guardian) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday issued as part of its Article IV consultations its staff report for 2017, highlighting three pertinent issues/recommendations which it believes T&T must address.

The three issues pointed out by IMF were: restoring macroeconomic stability, managing external imbalances and supporting broad-based and inclusive growth.

The recommendations come in the context of continued low energy prices and three years of recession which have significantly widened fiscal deficits in T&T.

The Fund said: "absent consolidation, fiscal balances and public debt are projected to be on an unsustainable medium-term trajectory."

On the issue of restoring macroeconomic stability, the IMF noted: "Despite some policy actions already undertaken, sustainable fiscal adjustment requires additional measures. Given the urgency of consolidation, staff advocated high impact measures to achieve the required adjustment, with an eye towards increasing revenues and reducing current expenditures. Increasing public investment remains critical for a return to sustainable growth."

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(Barbados Today) Cable & Wireless West Indies Limited, which trades here as Flow, has been taken to court by a group of former shareholders.

Acting on behalf of the Cable & Wireless Minority Shareholders Group, Queen’s Counsel Garth Patterson this morning filed a claim in the High Court in a class action against the directors of the utility company.

Ricky Went, one of those spearheading the lawsuit, told reporters on the sidelines of the monthly business luncheon of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) at Hilton Barbados Resort this afternoon that when C&W merged with other utility entities, the minority shareholders were effectively locked out of the company.

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(Barbados Today) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has refused to rule out the possibility of a devaluation of the Barbados dollar should the country enter a fiscal programme with the lending institution.

IMF Director for the Western Hemisphere Alejandro Werner told Barbados TODAY that devaluation would have to be a choice for Government to make. The Barbados dollar is currently pegged at BD$2 to US$1.

The Central Bank of Barbados and several noted economists have raised concerns about the future stability of the currency due to the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

At the same time, the Freundel Stuart administration is coming under increasing pressure to enter into a formal arrangement with the IMF in order to drag the local economy out of its present state of virtual disrepair.

Suggesting that the international financial market was losing confidence in Barbados, Werner said Government would have to consider its competitiveness while building “a programme that is consistent and sustainable” when it ponders devaluation.

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