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Appleton sugar factory shutters leaving 370 workers unemployed

Appleton Estates Sugar Factory in St Elizabeth, Jamaica has discontinued its operations following stakeholder consultations, J Wray & Nephew Ltd (JWN) said yesterday, July 29.

Almost 400 people have been made unemployed with the announced immediate closure of the Appleton sugar estates.

The closure will leave the farm’s 370 workers without a job as JWN said further consultations with unions will continue as a date to be announced.

However, the employees will be afforded generous separation packages and additionally there are plans to alleviate the impact on third party farmers, JWN said in a statement.

Additionally, management of the farm will be divested to a third-party company with knowledge of the sugar operations, which will re-employ a significant number of the 370 employees affected, JWN said in a statement yesterday. “

The Appleton Estate Distillery and the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience will continue normal operations.

The company has reported annual losses of US$12 million (approximately J$1.8 billion) on its sugar production operations for over a decade. “These sustained losses have forced the company to take this necessary course of action,” the statement continued.

“The negative impact of the novel coronavirus has also contributed to the company’s decision. The global pandemic resulted in the closure of bars, tourism and other routes to market, and in so doing, crippled the domestic and export earnings of J Wray & Nephew.”

“This decision was not an easy one but was arrived at following several weeks of consultation with our stakeholders. Those union consultations follow years of exploration and significant capital investments aimed at improving the productivity and efficiency of the factory. We are in the process of working out the best outcome for the impacted workers and the wider community,” the statement said.

Sugar results over the years have been dismal, the company said as the country’s 2020 sugar crop only produced 44,000 tonnes of sugar according to a recent Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture & Fisheries.

Some 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of raw sugar was required to keep the industry viable, said a 2010 Sugar Industry Enquiry Commission Report of 2010.

The announce closure follows that of the Holland & Casa Marantha sugar estates St Elizabeth in 2018 by JWN, as the company moved to cut losses. Despite those measures, no savings were made from the cuts.

JWN is set to hold another meeting with unions and worker delegates on August 5.