Area Representative for Stann Creek West, Rodwell Ferguson, has raised some concerns that he has observed in his constituency. The first is an issue that is affecting one of Belize’s largest industries: citrus. Most citrus farms are in the southern district, but the industry has been facing plenty of problems. Ferguson said that the industry is in a decline and he is concerned for the employees.
Paul Ferguson, Area Representative, Stann Creek West: “There was two companies until 1999, Belize Fruit Products Limited and the Citrus Company of Belize. Both companies merged the form the Citrus Products of Belize Limited. When they merged there has been a decline of the production of citrus. 20 years ago it peaked to about 8 million boxes and now it has declined to a little over 2 million boxes. This year I believe it will be less than 2 million boxes. This has an effect on it’s employees because back then the company used to process citrus fruit 24/7, now they are barely processing citrus fruit for two shifts which is basically sixteen hours and so even the employee salary has been reduced because there is no overtime, they work their normal forty five hour work week. The employment in that industry was over six to seven hundred thousand fifteen years ago, today the employment is a little over two hundred to three hundred, that’s a definitely a vast reduction. I know CPBL had a loan with Social Security and so along with Social Security and the farmers I think they own about 51% and banks holdings own 49%, so with the government owning shares in the company they decide who the chairman will be for CPBL and the chairman right now I think it’s Mr.Doug Singh who chairs the CPBL board. But I hope that they can find a solution to such a problem. Only one company is operating the is the BFP factory, CPBL is basically non functional and I think if the Ministry intervenes they can find other activities for the CPBL factory to be able to process other fruits.”
The other issue Ferguson brought up is one we have reported on before. According to him, there are issues when it comes to choosing the members of the waterboard. He claims the Minister who is responsible for the task is not following protocol.
Paul Ferguson, Area Representative, Stann Creek West: “The law says that the Minister who is Honorable Dr.Carla Barnett is responsible to appoint the water boards after consultation with the elected representative and the elected village council. So I’m putting pressure on the Ministry over the last two months that she follow proper protocol and so last week myself and some village council received a letter proposing the names that she wants to appoint to the water boards in the different communities. But in the recent village council election, in the Stann Creek West constituency and the Stann Creek District on a whole we won more than 85% of the village councils, all we are asking the minister is for respect that the people of that region have made a choice and they voted for village councils of the People’s United Party. We only want her to respect and ask the representatives and the village councils to make their recommendation to the water board based on the people’s decision. Unfortunately we understand that she is accepting the recommendations from an un-elected standard bearer. So when we got the proposed list none of the names myself and the village councils recommended was on the list, it was only the names of those of the un-elected standard bearers. While it is her prerogative I feel that she should have had the decency to come and dialogue with us, have a meaningful consultation, sitting down face to face, not by writing us a letter and saying ‘these are the people I’m going to propose to be on your waterboard.’ We could have sat down with her and come to a conclusion.”
We will keep following these stories for any developments.