Over the years the sugar cane industry has had its fair share of challenges. Farmers have had to adapt to changes in the global market which has led to falling prices. Area representative, Jose Mai said the Ministry of Trade needs to look at expanding the country quota.
Jose Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: “When it relates to agriculture it has to be market based export driven. We know that the markets in Europe the prices have been going down significantly it’s a nosedive. We in the north being with ASR as a cane farmer speaking now- have been seeing the effects of low prices. So we ought to look at alternative markets. ASR right now is looking at the CARICOM market for direct consumption sugar and that has given us a little dollar or so extra per ton maybe a little bit more to the cane farmer. Santander has the right to do so too, look at that same market because we import hundreds of thousands of tons of direct consumption sugar from cheap producing countries like Brazil that come into the region which we can now start supplying; so Santander has that option. But also if you look at our neighbors just across the Rio Hondo, the Mexicans, the farmers are being paid $105 per ton of sugar cane right now, we are at $42. Of course you will say that they have a huge domestic market which is certainly true but they also have access to the American market and the American market is based on country quota. At this time ASR has that country quota but I think what the Ministry of Trade ought to do is to start to lobby more for the expansion of quotas for countries like Belize. So I’m not sure if we are in the good books of the US right now with all this drug trafficking and drug plane landing I’m not sure if they like us too much I doubt that very much but this is what we ought to do look at alternative markets and the quotas given by the Americans are not for a company they are for a country.”
Mai said there is also the need to look at how the cost of production of sugar can be reduced.