The sugar industry in Belize is facing grave challenges as the EU market shifts its focus and world market prices continue to fall. The payment to farmers is significantly lower this year than in previous, but it was not unexpected. Improvements have been made in best practices and adopting new technologies. American Sugar Refinery’s Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) has invested heavily in several projects; among them, a 22 million dollar investment to increase the production of Direct Consumption Sugar to expand into new markets. Still, the reality of the situation has farmers fearing the worst. But a majority of sugar stakeholders remain optimistic, and the consensus has been that new and more efficient practices must be adopted by all to remain viable on the international markets. The Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse says farmers must adapt and fast.
Honorable Godwin Hulse: In the long term some of the things that we have to understand is that unless and until we are able to get those yields up which was the whole idea of all the support systems, was the whole idea of all of payment by quality. Now all these issues that we have over the years is the fundamental answer and unless we can improve yields given lower prices farmers which struggle; that is the challenge and that is why monies have been put continuously in that industry to try to get that up. BSI’s price intervention has also helped in some areas, with harvesting and other things, they have as you know expanded their production to include direct consumption sugar because that is where you get a better price and we are pushing hard to get that also into the Caribbean is a better price for the sugar. As you know there is a 65 to 35 split so the better price we get for sugar, the better price for sugarcane.
Dalila Ical: Is there anything government can do more to assist the industry?
Minister Godwin Hulse: No not really i mean we can’t continue or even continue talk about subsidies and no no this a business and farmers and farmers association are business groups; this is the pitch we are taking. Yes research has found necessarily yes in ensuring that there equity within the industry but it is what it is and the free cane farmers continue to produce and they will have to at some stage improve their yields and that is the magic bullet so to speak.
The final cane payment estimates are to be released in November. In the meantime, stakeholders continue in their work towards increased competitiveness on the global market.