Yesterday, we told you that Sugar Cane Farmers in the North were prepared to strike against the Belize Sugar Industry (BSI) due to several concerns about production. The strike was reportedly called off after a meeting with BSI. Today, we contacted BSI and spoke with Mac MacLachlan, Vice President of International Relations for BSI/ASR. He spoke on several issues including the effects of last year’s drought.
Mac Maclachan, Director, Belize Sugar Industries: “What’s happening is the cane because it’s been exposed to these very dry conditions last year is much smaller in size and has lower quality than it would normally have and that means that there are certain difficulties with harvesting it, delivering it from the field it’s tending to come in with topsoil and with a number of other sort of additional elements to it which the factory then has to process in order to produce the sugar and basically is that when there’s a spike in some of the material coming in the factory gets a bit clogged up with that and needs to reduce the milling rate in order to clear that which is effectively mud in the system. So what we discussed yesterday was a better method for communication with farmers that firstly urging good quality and clean cane to come in the first place but we understand that there are difficulties with that because of the impact of the drought on that cane but when we are struggling a little bit in the factory after it’s rained or whatever we communicate clearly how much cane is needed so that farmers are only bringing in whats required and don’t then have to stand in a queue for many hours waiting to deliver their cane and that was largely the conversation we had yesterday.”
Yesterday, Chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association Orange Walk Branch, Alfredo Ortega, indicated that BSI released the second cane price estimate per ton of sugar. According to Mac MacLachlan these prices reflect the change in sugar cane prices in the global market.
Mac Maclachan, Director, Belize Sugar Industries: “We update the cane estimate periodically every month so yes we have sent out a regular update which is indicating a slight improvement in cane price which is a direct relation to improvements in sugar prices. Cane prices directly link to the value of the sugar that’s being sold and of course that’s reliant on the global market. We’ve seen a slight upturn in the global market which is obviously welcomed which means a small increase in the estimation as it is at the moment for the cane price but we do that periodically every month.”
Another concern from the sugar cane farmers was that cane juice was being dumped outside the factory. In speaking with Mac MacLachlan he explained that no cane juice is being dumped and that is simply misinformation. He went on to say that they are just emptying the tanks that store up the mud washed off from the sugar cane.
Mac Maclachan, Director, Belize Sugar Industries: “I think what they might have been talking about is we have a process of clarification in the factory where the mud gets taken out of the cane juice in order to allow the cane juice to be made into sugar. Because of the problems I mentioned earlier with a lot of matter including topsoil coming in with the cane those clarifiers get fairly full sometimes. So recently one of the clarifies were emptied and the mud was disposed of and I could only think that that is what’s being held up as an example of cane juice being discarded whereas in fact it is mud. The milled mud that we get rid of throughout the crop has a small amount of sugar left in it, you don’t extract all the sugar from everything but it’s part of the process where it’s not worth it extracting any more. The reason the mud was taken out of the clarifier was to enable us to get back to grinding more cane.”
Grinding rates have returned to normal at the factory. BSI mentioned that they were unaware that the cane farmers were going to have a protest.