It has been seven months now since the Belize Sugar Industries and ASR had presented a plan to the sugar cane farmers that would see BSI investing twenty two million dollars and the cane farmers making a bit more on their deliveries. It seems like a practical proposal as two of the sugar cane farmers’ associations have already signed onto the agreement leaving the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) still determined to use this opportunity to negotiate other issues. In our interview with Carlos Itza of the Government’s body, Sugar Cane Production Committee, he says that the last resort would be to have the individual farmers of the BSCFA sign the agreement as opposed to the association. Today, we asked Agriculture Minister, Godwin Hulse to speak on the issue and to indicate whether we are at that stage of individual farmers signing.
“I’m not sure where we are but what I’m sure of is that 40% of the cane farmers represented by the two other bodies have signed on and they should not be held to ransom. The fact of the matter is the cane farmers are not being asked to make any investments in BSI at all, investments are being made by BSI and it’s going to help the farmers. They continue to get their 65% of revenue after transportation costs and so what BSI is attempting to do is direct consumption sugars to sell the sugar straight to people’s table which will fetch a higher price and as a consequence a better payment to farmers. Raw sugar is not fetching a good price anymore we all know that the world prices are low and so what is being asked of the farmers is to extend this agreement to year 7 and that is all that is being asked so that the company can make its investment of $22 million dollars and get on with the job and I have met with the BSCFA and I have agreed to meet with them again after they have finished their consultations to hear what it is that their members have to say but I trust that they will come on board. The two issues being asked of increase the milling this year all the cane was milled as far as I understand and so the factory has improved its milling capacity, has improved significantly its outturn of cane to sugar and with DC sugars it should even improve further. The question of payment for bagasse that is a very old story and and there is a formula that is being utilized and I think the formula should be respected.”
The investment will take place over a period of eighteen months and will seek to increase production of direct consumption sugar from thirty thousand metric tons per year to about fifty thousand. It is an agreement that BSI/ASR is proposing to last for four years and thus the 2015 Cane Purchase Agreement would have to be amended to reflect such. The BSI/ASR says that it is crucial for them to get this four year agreement implemented so as to not have any of the associations pulling out in the middle of a crop season particularly since millions of dollars will be at stake. The Direct Consumption Sugar also referred to as DC Sugar is made to a higher quality than raw sugar so that it can be consumed directly and does not need to be refined again by the customer.