BSI Objects to Proposed Amendments to Sugar Industry Act
Tonight, Belize’s sugar industry remains in a potentially volatile situation after Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) objected to GOB’s proposed amendments to the Sugar Industry Act. The miller notes that last Friday, the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) held a meeting to review and approve regulations entitled: Sugar Industry (Licence to Import/Export Sugar) Regulations, 2023. The proposed amendments, which are slated to be tabled in this Friday’s House meeting, were geared toward improving the industry, but BSI says quote “it finds the regulations retrograde, unnecessary, burdensome and discriminatory.” BSI claims that the proposed amendments give the government-controlled SICB inordinate and disproportionate power to interfere with the routine operations of a private sector business, such as deciding whether it is a business in good standing and whether it should be issued with an annual license to export sugar. The miller states that the disclosure requirements to obtain such a license are unduly intrusive, unreasonable, disproportionate, harmful to BSI’s commercial interests, and unique only to Belize’s sugar industry. BSI says that it rejects the proposal, is examining its options, and is considering challenging the validity of the changes. And, what might those changes be? According to Prime Minister John Briceno, the proposed regulations would empower the SICB to issue export licenses instead of the Minister of Agriculture. Last Thursday, the PM explained that the changes were being made after there was a dispute between BSI and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) over Fairtrade payments.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Basically what cabinet has decided is that under the Sugar Industry Act of 2001 there is an application process for the exportation of sugar and it requires the exporter, and at that time there was only one which was BSI but now we have Santander so now it’s important more than ever for there to be full accountability as to the sugar, as to where it’s being sold and to who it’s going to be sold. And so that’s now what this mechanism is going to do enacting that part of the mechanism but with one change that the Minister Mai has recommended the cabinet that instead of him signing which is already on the act he is going to empower the Sugar Control Board or what we refer to as the sugar board for them to be able to sign the export licenses.”
Our newsroom reached out to BSI for comment but our efforts were to avail. We also reached out to the Minister of Agriculture, whose ministry received a letter from BSI rejecting the regulations, but he informed us that tomorrow he would be weighing in on the decision.