Speaking generally on the state of the sugar industry, Mai said that the stakeholders need to take a long and hard look at ways to reduce the cost of sugar production even further.

His premise is that world sugar prices aren't rebounding fast enough to allow the farmers and the millers a reasonable rate of return.

Here are those comments:

Hon. Jose Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, Enterprise
"The sugar industry has to go through some serious reforms, reforms across the entire industry from farmers to millers to transportation overseas. We cannot continue with the industry the way it is today; it is going to crash; we cannot continue to grow sugar cane at $63 per ton up to farm gate when I am being paid $50 per ton or $54 per ton. Nobody will survive with those costs; nobody can survive with the cost of operations that ASR has. They have some tremendous costs which means that we have to get efficient across the entire industry from the farm all the way to Europe. We have to see; we have to make a conscious effort to reduce the cost of producing sugar cane and sugar in this country. We are prepared to sit down with ASR and to find ways and means with which we can help to reduce cost and we have to sit down with the cane farmers too and ensure that they can be more efficient. The government has a key role to play in fixing the sugar roads. There is no way we can even begin the crop right now with the deplorable conditions of the sugar roads we have inherited. It is a sad situation for the cane farmers, so we have a lot of work to do in the sugar industry."

Sugar Industry Changes Start At SICB

The new Minister of Agriculture also told us today that the Briceno Administration intends to appoint a new chairman of the Sugar Industries Control Board. That's the body that oversees the proper management of the sugar industries in the north, and reports reaching the press this weekend were that a computer from SICB's headquarters was removed.

That computer reportedly had receipts and important documents for the use of government funds allocated to the sugar industry, and when our CTV colleagues asked Jose Mai about it, he said that he has reported the unauthorized removal to the police:

"Over the weekend we received reports that one of the computers, the desktop computers sorry from the SICB from the sugar industry control board was retrieved by police from an employee of that area. Are you aware of this?"

Hon. Jose Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, Enterprise
"Of course, I am aware of the desktop that was taken from the sugar industry control board offices. We know of files and copies of fuel receipts missing, we know who took it out and we know who was trying to get it destroyed by fire. That report will be forwarded to the police and we are seeking that criminal investigation be opened into this particular matter. This nonsense about corruption has to stop, we have spoken to the commanding officer of Orange and have spoken to the commissioner of police, I've shared my information with them and this will have to be retrieved."

Channel 7