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BSCFA and BSI/ASR at Odds, Again

The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and the Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) / American Sugar Refineries (ASR) are at odds again. Yesterday, Prime Minister John Briceno and Agriculture Minister Jose Mai met with the Committee of Management of the BSCFA to discuss the negotiations between both parties. The point of contention is the signing of a new commercial agreement. The media asked Prime Minister John Briceno about it today. The PM said that the cane farmers must understand that the government cannot always intervene. 

John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: We have made some decisions. The BSCFA needs to understand that the government cannot solve their problems with the stroke of a pen because it is two private entities that are operating.  We can only intervene and try to put them around the table for us to be able to find a way where there can be a win-win for everyone.  Because we all understand, and we always tell both sides BSI can’t do without 50% or 51% of the cane or 600,000 tons of sugar cane that the members of the BSCFA have, but at the same time, the members of the BSCFA cannot do without BSI/ASR. We have to find a middle ground. We are hooked at the hip. We are partners, so we have to try to sit down with both parties and try to work a way forward. I’m optimistic by nature, so I do believe that we will be able to find an agreement before the start of the next crop.

According to the Prime Minister, both parties will need to trust each other to move forward for the good of the next crop season.  

John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: It’s a matter of starting to create some sort of trust between both parties.  BSI, rightfully so, is saying that they cannot give up 20 million dollars, but I also know that the farmers cannot expect BSI to just hand over 20 million dollars.  But what the farmers are saying now is ‘let’s look at the expenses’. They have what you call a net sugar value. That is the money that is used to pay expenses to produce the sugar at the top, and that number has been increasing over the years, and now farmers are saying ‘take a look at how it is that we get to that number. Or let’s see if there can be any other byproducts that can be used. So there are many moving parts that it will be difficult for me to sit down and go through the entire thing or else. What’s important is that we need to find a way how we can get both sides to sit down and to rationally go through the issues one by one and to find some sort of middle ground.  When you’re negotiating, you have to be prepared to give up something; and both side have to be prepared to give up something so that we can have a middle ground, a common ground for us to have a successful cane season next year