SUGAR SYMPOSIUM: REPLY TO MR. BREWSTER
My second disagreement with Mr. Brewster was of a much larger order. Having stated two strategies for sugar Mr. Brewster states that he personally believes, and I quote “that the sugar industry should be completely abandoned at once”. Now is that a statement of a responsible person I ask? Completely abandoned at once! Mr. Brewster gives hi reasons for this drastic proposal and again I quote “the logic of this approach is to create such extreme shock conditions that of necessity we would find rather quickly what the alternatives are”. He hasn’t found out the alternatives first mark you, but he just says that he’ll give us a shock and then give us the alternatives later. But I’ll tell you Mr. Chairman what the alternatives are-a tremendous reduction in the standard of living of the people of Jamaica, including the people of Kingston, who don’t seem to think in terms of Jamaica very often; and destitution in many of the country parishes. That’s what the alternatives are that he is prepared to contemplate. And he goes on to say, and I want you to see what he’s thinking, and again I quote “in the course of finding out these, a new type of economic and political organisation would become necessary.”
Now I stress the word political because this seems to be the key word of this sentence. Presumably Mr. Brewster feels it is necessary to create economic chaos in Jamaica in order to bring about a political revolution. Well, everyone is entitled to his viewpoint. This is a free country. Right here in Jamaica we are not thrown into prison or shot if we express views which are in disagreement with the Government. So it’s a free country-free for the moment at any rate. But all of this has nothing to do with economics. No economist in his senses would talk about precipitately scrapping a major industry, throwing tens of thousands of workers out of jobs and ruining thousands of cane farmers without first ascertaining what can be put in that industry’s place. And although there has been a lot of talk of diversification, diversification out of sugar, I have seen no factual study by Mr. Brewster or anyone else showing what crops could economically replace sugar cane in Jamaica (and he says 200,000 acres, I say 170,000 alright).
The trouble is that because Mr. Brewster is a lecturer in economics, people will get the impression that there is an economic basis for his theory-that the sugar industry is dying, or alternatively, that it should be dead. There is no economic basis whatsoever for that theory. At least none has yet been demonstrated by Mr. Brewster or by anyone else. Moreover no economist of any international repute and standing who has investigated the Jamaican economy, be it Dr. Balogh who is sufficiently left wing or Dr. Lewis or whoever, agrees with Mr. Brewster-not one of them. I’ve read all the reports. They would have nothing to do with his views.
I should like to conclude, by reminding you Mr. Chairman, that far from adopting Mr. Brewster’s policy, Dr. Castro who is a pretty shrewd politician (I don’t know whether he is a doctor of economics as well) is expanding the Cuban sugar industry as fast as he can. The Cuban leader has made sugar the top priority in his economic plan and his target is to produce 10 million tons of sugar per year. He thought industrialization would solve all his problems but he found he needed the foreign exchange created by sugar. So Mr. Chairman I venture to prophesy that far from sugar being a dying industry, as Mr. Brewster holds West Indian farmers will be growing cane in preference to other more difficult and less easily marketable crops, long after even the youngest member, the children I say, amongst our audience, have passed on That’s my prophesy.
And having said that you can rely on me Sir, and our industry, to collaborate with the New World Group in a factual study of the sugar industry, a factual study of the Mordecai report and all its problems. All we are after is to discuss these matters, not in a political atmosphere, not in an atmosphere of scrapping the industry in order to cause a revolution or something of the sort, but in order to ascertain how we can better the sugar industry for the good of the people in the industry and for the good of all the people in Jamaica.
Robert Kirkwood is Chairman of the Sugar Manufacturers Association in Jamaica and a member of the Tate and Lyle establishment.