Over 700 cane farmers are facing an uncertain future this afternoon, after rum manufacturers, J Wray and Nephew, shut down their Appleton Sugar Factory in Nassau Valley, St. Elizabeth.
The closure follows an injunction issued by the Supreme Court yesterday, ordering J Wray and Nephew to suspend operations at the factory until it complies with wastewater treatment standards set by the National Environment and Planning Agency, NEPA.
Angry sugar workers today took to the streets to protest against what they say are the unfair actions of a neighbouring company, which caused the court to rule against Appleton.
Protestors blocked the Holland Bamboo main road this morning, as well as the roads leading from Lacovia to Maggoty and the Appleton Estate in the Nassau Valley area of St. Elizabeth.
They also blocked the gates to Appleton’s next door neighbor, the fish farming company Algix Jamaica, chanting, “No cane, no fish!”
Algix, which claims to be the largest fish farm in the Caribbean, markets the Bassa and Tilapia varieties under the brand, “Pride of Jamaica”.
It sells its products to Rainforest Seafoods, CPJ, and to the export market.
Algix says it’s being unfairly blamed for Appleton’s closure.
Its Managing Director, Maurice Reynolds, says the dispute with Appleton dates back to February last year.
So Algix sued J Wray and Nephew in December and applied for an injunction to bar them from discharging waste from the factory until the trial.
A judge granted that injunction yesterday.
But J Wray and Nephew’s Managing Director, Clement “Jimmy” Lawrence, says they’ve been working with NEPA since the new effluent standards came into effect in 2013.
Mr. Lawrence says the company will appeal the injunction.
But in the interim, hundreds of workers are impacted, as the Appleton Estate factory, which should have started production three weeks ago, remains closed.
Algix insists that they’re not to be blamed for the closure, noting that as long as Appleton complies with NEPA’s standards, the injunction does not apply.
They say they’re appalled at J Wray and Nephew’s actions.
J. Wray and Nephew says they’re reviewing the situation and assessing their options.