There is controversy once again in the sugar industry as some farmers are claiming that there is some discrepancies in freight expenses American Sugar Refinery’s Belize Sugar Industries (ASR/BSI) claimed. Reporter Sitnah Blease spoke with a representative from the company.
Sitnah Blease: Earlier this week Love News spoke to Jose Mai the Area representative for Orange Walk South about the current decrease in sugar payments and the discrepancies he believes to have been in the ASR/BSI balance sheet. This is over the freight cost the company said it incurred. Olivia Avilez, the Cane Farmer’s Relations for ASR/BSI responded to Mai’s claims.
Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmer’s Relations for the B.S.I Ltd: We are extremely appalled by such assertions; not only are they mischievous but it is sad to know that they are using terminologies to really confuse the farmers into thinking that BSI is stealing some $11.4 million from them. I think at this time it is sad because we should be focusing in actual work for the farmers. Getting down and dirty and writing projects for them in Climate smart agriculture for example or we should be focusing on the CARICOM market and trying to ensure that the C.E.T. is implemented in sugars like what the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade is doing. That is the kind of work that we need to get done. The assertions being made of course are incorrect and we must state specifically that there are no discrepancies in the cane price estimates we have issued to farmers nor in the documents that we have.
Sitnah Blease: When asked what plans BSI/ASR has to finding a solution with the cane farmers, Avilez explains that BSI has active projects underway, which benefits both the company and the farmers.
Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmer’s Relations for the B.S.I Ltd: ASR/BSI has a design specific programs to assist farmers. One such program is our Mechanical harvesting program where we have 149 participating farmers who volunteer to participate and we have actually reduced the cost of harvesting to an average of $5.50 savings so they have $5.50 more to either invest in their fields or for their sustainability so these are the kinds of projects that we have to continue doing. Not only were we able to save them in the cost of harvesting but we were also the highest quality group as a group and they also benefit from that price so also a very important thing that BSI is doing is the investments in the Mill. This year we had a $22 million dollar investment particularly to change from producing so much raw sugar to direct consumption sugars. Direct consumption sugars have a higher price; we sell them for a higher price. This year we’re able to sell them 42% higher than the raw. We have to be able to produce more of this. The factory has to change some it’s equipment to do that and those are the kinds of investments that we are making. This will also increase the Mills capacity to mill cane from 1.25 million tons to 1.35 million tons. That’s also a benefit to farmers because we are able to take in more cane.
Sitnah Blese: Mai said if a solution was not made between the farmer and miller, it could lead to a legal matter. Avilez expressed her opinion on the situation.
Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmer’s Relations for the B.S.I Ltd: BSI is a long standing company; it is an ethical company. It is a transparent company and we have a good relationship with our famers contrary to how it looks and we have had several meetings with hem to go over the cane price. To go over the contracts that we have we have specific, we are able to show them some contracts; not publicize them but show them and so we have a good process. An audited process; I personally gave audit reports to all three chairmen of the associations and we will do so again in August. We are also audited by Fair Trade which is the farmers certification to ensure that they have a fair process and we have every year audits from Fair Trade and the first thing that they ask us is our commercial agreement, our cane price and audit the whole value chain along with supply so honestly in terms of legal action. Probably he has to clarify what he means by that but certainly we are prepared to show farmers and ensure that they know what we are talking about.
Sitnah Blease: Avilez says due to the prices of sugar being so low, they are also struggling as an industry in much the same way being experienced by farmers. She stated that everything the company does in investment and activities is in the best interest of the farmers and whatever they do in their fields will benefit the industry. She urged farmers to join forces with the Miller so that they are able to foster better communications and understanding.
Reporting for Love News I am Sitnah Blease.
The People’s United Party also issued a release today requesting a response from ASR/BSI about the startling cost of over eleven million dollars incurred to the farmers for the Free alongside Ship (FAS) and the decline in sugar payments received recently.