Belize Sugar Industries Stands Firm in Commercial Agreement Dispute

Belize Sugar Industries Stands Firm in Commercial Agreement Dispute

The loggerhead between the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) and Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) may last for much longer because BSI says they are not moving the goal post. The parties have remained at odds for almost two years over the signing of a commercial agreement. BSCFA, which represents more than half of sugar cane farmers in Orange Walk and Corozal, says they want to renegotiate key points in their agreement. The association stated that they are seeking new terms that will be more beneficial to them when it comes to their revenue from production costs. However, BSI’s Vice President of International Relations, Mac Maclachlan, says that at this point the mill simple cannot afford it. 

Mac Maclachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR/BSI: “Reporter:Our position remains exactly the same and that’s that we can look at simplifying things through a commercial agreement but we’re not in a position to be transferring value. We’ve said that from day one and it’s still the same in fact even more so today as we’re looking at the kind of industry, particularly business losses we’re going to be facing this year. We hope that there will be a common sense approach to this moving forward. It’s not in our interest or anybody’s interest not to have an agreement I mean you know we need the cane, the farmers want to mill the cane so I’m a great believer in that’s the bottom line and beyond that we’ll have to find an accommodation but we haven’t had any discussions really of late because there’s been a lot of other things going on which are kind of I think deflecting a little bit the real issue of actually having an agreement. Remember this is private sector business, these are commercial agreements between ourselves and cane growers who want to sell cane to the sugar mill and the vast majority of which I think we don’t really have an issue but you know we need to overcome this particularly to deal with the challenges the modernization we’re talking about. If we have a fractured industry how are we going to fix these problems? It just makes it harder and harder and so we’re here to help. We’re here to mill cane. We’re here to grow the pie so that everybody benefits from it. I think it’s evident what ASR and BSI have done in this country. People have rather short memories sometimes this business was going out of business in 2011 there was no doubt about it having to borrow money from the government, having to borrow money from Tate and Lisle and others we came in, we recapitalized this business we’ve continued to invest in it all told now $320 million dollars and we’ve created a really firm platform for moving forward.”

Maclachlan added that when it comes to the new sugar regulations, BSI is completely against them and feel that they will burden the industry. 

Mac Maclachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR/BSI: “As you know we’ve lodged an injunction against that legislation because we’re not the conveyor. We don’t market and sell fair trade sugar and we don’t provide the premiums for it so we’re simply not the conveyor. So what that law was doing was trying to make us things we can’t do. So of course we had to challenge it. What a shame we have to go through all of this. Again we’ve put a lot of effort into this country and into this industry in order to put it on a really solid footing and I think some of the things that are happening there are questionable about whether that’s pushing this thing in the right direction. But you know the good thing about Belize there’s a court system here, a good functioning rule of law and we don’t like to have to go that way but we will use it to defend this business. It’s not the way that Tate and Lisle does business, they sell fair trade sugar to many different places in the world and they like to have a relationship with the associations that they’re working with because they want to be able to tell the story and they want to be able to help those associations. So the current situations that Tate and Lisle I know have been talking to the BSCFA, Fair Trade International has set up some principles that are sensible. Look what are we talking about ? We’re talking about truthful communication. We’re talking about cooperation with other industry stakeholders and proper record keeping of how much cane there is that’s it. I can’t for the life of me understand what’s wrong with that. So hopefully there will be an agreement. I’m certainly in agreement with those principles, I know other associations are so hopefully all of this will be overcome and we can all work together that’s the point of these things.”

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