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Over 200 Former Frome Workers Receive EU Funded Grants

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

KINGSTON:  More than 200 displaced workers who were formerly employed to the Frome Sugar Estate received grant awards amounting to some J$32 million this morning. The grants were disbursed under the governments Social Mitigation Programme which is supported by the European Union. This is the first set of vulnerable displaced employees of Frome Estate to receive grant funding. The total number of Grant beneficiaries at Frome SDA will be 675. On completion, an estimated 4,600 sugar workers and small cane farmers will benefit from the Grants Programme. The grants are being awarded to assist the workers in a number of areas, including housing, training and small business development.

The Government of Jamaica's Social Mitigation programme aims to among other things help cushion the social, economic and environmental impact of the changes to the EU Sugar Regime. The EU's current support to the sugar sector follows a WTO ruling in 2004 which resulted in a drop of 36% in the price paid to ACP sugar producers. The EU offers a package of support, known as Accompanying Measures, funded by annual grants from 2006 through to 2013. More than 8 billion JMD have been earmarked for Jamaica for the 2006-10 period, of which over half has already been disbursed and over 3 billion $J more will be disbursed by the end of this financial year. These figures include the grants which were awarded today.

Charge d' Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Helen Jenkinson noted during her address that the programme was critical in ensuring that displaced sugar workers received the assistance needed to adjust to the changes in the sector.

"As I understand it, the e second phase of this programme will be extended from direct support to displaced workers towards a broader support to the sugar dependent communities in terms of economic and social development diversification and improvement in the standards of living. Expanding employment and business development opportunities as well as improved access to social services and rehabilitation of socio-economic infrastructure in Sugar Dependent Areas.. To that end, an additional allocation of over J$600m will be earmarked to assist the Government to implement its strategy".

In his keynote address, Agriculture Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton said the government's current strategy will lead to a stronger sugar sector which will yield greater financial benefits for the country. "The structure of the sugar industry has changed fundamentally since July 30 2010, when the GOJ concluded an Agreement to divest the remaining three (3) GOJ sugar estates which included Frome to COMPLANT International of China. This is just the first step in GOJ’s initiative to develop a commercially viable and sustainable sugar cane sector which can contribute positively to the country’s economy. It will be necessary to increase the sector’s production, productivity and efficiency."