J Wray and Nephew confirms closure of Appleton Sugar Factory
File photo of the Appleton Estate in St Elizabeth.
J Wray & Nephew Ltd (JWN) has confirmed that it will cease operating its Appleton Estates Sugar Factory, resulting in 370 positions being made redundant.
In a statement on Wednesday (July 29), JWN said the decision follows reported annual losses of US$12 million on its sugar production operations for over a decade.
It also noted that the negative impact of the novel coronavirus contributed to the decision to close the factory.
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.
J Wray & Nephew Chairman Clement Jimmy Lawrence.
Chairman of J Wray & Nephew, Clement Jimmy Lawrence, said the company regrets the move but had no alternative.
“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,” he said in the statement.
The management of the farm will be divested to a third-party company, which will re-employ a significant number of the 370 employees impacted, JWN said.
The company further said affected employees will be afforded generous separation packages and that there are plans to alleviate the impact on third-party farmers.
Despite the closure of the sugar factory, Appleton Estate Distillery and the Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience (JS-AERE) will continue normal operations.
Sugar results over the years have been dismal for the JWN and the Jamaican sugar industry.
In 2018, J Wray & Nephew was forced to close its Holland & Casa Marantha sugar estates, also in St Elizabeth, in a bid to reduce its overall losses. But, according to the company, those closures did not result in any savings.
Concerning its latest redundancy exercise, JWN said a date will be announced after further consultations with the unions, the next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 5, 2020, when the unions and its worker delegates will meet with the company.
JWN said that even in the face of financial losses, it dug deep into its reserves and allocated $300 million to support Jamaica’s COVID-19 response on top of the support it has given to its employees.
The company contributed high strength alcohol to the national health system through its donation to the National Health Fund, provided nearly 10,000 food packages to various disadvantaged groups, and mobilised its staff to lend manpower to various causes.
“We will continue to support community-based initiatives, with projects and educational programmes, within the affected communities,” Lawrence stated.