Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association Supports Government’s Proposed Changes in Sugar Industry
Farmers Association (BSCFA) has said that they fully support government’s newly proposed changes to the sugar industry and the claim that BSI/ASR is trying to divide cane farmers. The association held a press conference today and spoke out against claims made by Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association (CSCPA) and the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association (PSCPA). The BSCFA says that last week the associations, which represent less than half of all cane farmers, misguided the public when they spoke out against the Sugar Industry (License to Import/Export Sugar) Regulations 2023. The legislation will force B.S.I. to disclose to the Sugar Industry Control Board how much sugar it has sold, to which buyers, and at what cost. The BSCFA’s Chairman of the Committee of Management, Alfredo Ortega, explained that they believe the move will ultimately benefit farmers who are demanding transparency from the mill.
Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, BSCFA’s Committee of Management: “We challenge BSI to come forward with the information needed. There’s nothing to hide. They should be very clear with us. We are working in partnership. They have always sing the song that we are a matrimony, but we live by words of matrimony because in their actions it’s totally different. So we want to be very clear that the BSCFA is working and finding solutions that will benefit the livelihood of farmers and their families. That is what we are looking for, and that is why we called this press conference to clarify many of the issues that was brought forward on the last press conference of the other two associations where there was a lot of misleading information on their side. The other association have openly shown that the leadership is not there to really engage in finding ways to better represent their farmers, to better find solutions to their farmers to get better opportunities. So we as the BSCFA, we continue our struggle and we are very thankful to the Minister of Agriculture and in extension to the government know that this regulation has come on board because this is the first step in regards to what we are looking for, for the benefit of the industry. The other part that we are looking for is that the commission of inquiry be in place so that then the commission of Inquiry can come out with more information that we need so that we can have a better agreement negotiated agreement with BSI and also for the act as has been mentioned, a modern act that will more workable for the industry. So that is what we are looking for.”
Another area that the BSCFA said they needed to provide clarity on was the claim that government interference may lead to the associations losing Fairtrade certification. Javier Keme, Chairman of the BSCFA’s Finance Committee, says they believe the government is not interfering but intervening on behalf of all cane farmers.
Javier Keme, Chairman, BSCFA’s Finance Committee: “And I heard in the press conference of the other two associations was mentioned the word interference, government interference. I think there is a difference between interference and intervention. Interference is most likely to do harm, to do bad, to do damage and intervention is most likely in a positive way to try to find solution or better things for the industry in our case. So I think the intervention of the government I would even say that it’s a bit late because the request was made many, many months ago to take action on the issues that the industry, the sugar industry was going through and the action that the government started by implementing legislation that was already in place but the industry had functioned well up to recently when this negotiation process started then it was seen by the government the need to enact this regulation to bring, stabilization to what is happening within the the industry. And it begs the question on what is, what is a ASR asking for? If you see the trend ASR has been going they want a deregulated industry. And if we have some regulations in place and this is happening, discrimination, abuse is happening, what do you think will happen in a deregulated industry? It’ll be worse.”