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Minister provides update on Santander sugar dilemna

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Yesterday Santander Sugar Limited issued a press statement apologizing for what it described as an ‘oversight’ after its sugar was discovered in the local market. The problem is that for Santander to sell sugar on the local market it needs a waiver from the EPZ committee and since it does not possess such waiver, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce, earlier this month, sent a strong warning to the company, instructing it to cease and desist. Since then, Santander Sugar has applied for the waiver, stating that quote, “the local sugar market should be shared by all Belize based sugar companies in a fair and equitable fashion especially since world sugar prices are falling.” End of quote. But there are those in the industry that strongly oppose Santander’s request to enter the local market. Santander wants its application to be reviewed at the earliest convenience and a waiver be granted. According to Minister Tracey Taeger-Panton, Santander’s application will take no less than two weeks to be reviewed and a decision made.

Tracey Taeger Panton, Minister of Investment: “There is a process that we must go through, a process that includes consultations with the relevant government ministries and agencies, consultations with the key stakeholders in the sugar sector, after all that has been done I suppose it will be a period of two weeks or so all the information will be collated and will be presented to the EPZ committee for consideration.”

Reporter: Can you say who is the local distributor?

Tracey Taeger Panton, Minister of Investment: “I believe it was DV Distributors as I was told.”

Reporter: Has the sugar been taken off the market? Do you know?

Tracey Taeger Panton, Minister of Investment: “That process is ongoing, the customs department is in charge of that aspect of it. We know that they mobilized some teams to do that I haven’t gotten an update this morning as to how much they were able to confiscate but is our intention to take what is on the market off the market. I don’t know that the Ministry could have done anything differently. The conditions of doing business with the Government of Belize is clear in the certificate of compliance. Santander had a duty and obligation, a responsibility to act in accordance with those conditions, they decided not to and so all of that of course weighs into a final decision that will be taken. Santander was told that if it did not cease and desist immediately that EPZ’s licenses would have been revoked. I think we are doing everything we can to confiscate the sugar, we also have to be mindful of the Belizeans that are hired by Santander and are part of the Santander operation as we are the 5,000 or so farmers in the north. As I said before the sugar industry is an important industry for Belize and for Belize’s export market and so we have to be fair to all concerned.”

Santander Sugar Limited says that it will comply with all local authorities and recall all the sugar that has been distributed thus far.

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