Image via Cana News, 23 August 2018. 

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Aug 23, CMC – More than 200 workers have been placed on the unemployment line after a leading distiller, blender, and bottler of rum announced it was closing down two of its operations on Wednesday.

J. Wray & Nephew Limited, a subsidiary of the Campari Group, a major player in the global branded beverage industry, said it had taken the decision because of the ongoing economic losses occasioned by the combined effect of escalating operational costs and the declining cost of sugar.

“This doesn’t in any way, shape, or form signal any exiting from sugar. We’re simply dealing with this area, which is least productive, most costly, most challenging and difficult for us when we did a broad-scale analysis to make that change to cauterise the losses. That, simply, is it,” the company’s chairman Clement ‘Jimmy’ Lawrence told The Gleaner newspaper here.

He told the newspaper that the company remained committed to the sugar cane industry as evidenced by its recent multimillion-dollar upgrade of the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience in St Elizabeth, southwest of here.

At least 226 workers have been placed on the breadline as a result of the decision and Lawrence told the Gleaner “we had a very good meeting with the staff and the union. It went very well.

“We outlined all of the support we are giving to our employees, and I think it was very well received. We really went out there to make sure that we treat our people well because they have really done our bidding in terms of programmes, the activities, and changes that we made to try to improve on our efficiency and operations. It was the very least that we could do, and we are very pleased that it was well received.”

“We were forced into this situation simply because of the difficulties there,” he said, adding that the Holland estate which was closed Wednesday, is below sea level.

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“You have to pump water off the land. It takes electricity to operate those huge Farbus pumps, and so you can see right at the outset, it’s challenging. And even areas that we have to irrigate, you don’t irrigate with the same level of cost as it is to pump water off the land. So that really is the fundamental story surrounding our actions,” he added.

Lawrence said that the issue was compounded by the global situation with sugar, with Jamaica suffering a major setback with the loss of a guaranteed sugar quota to the European Union last October.

“The production of sugar cane has declined, and global purchasers have been able to purchase sugar at far lower prices than Jamaica has been able to support,” he added.”