Sugar has been produced in Belize since slavery days and today it still remains vital to the economy. Most of the country’s sugar is sold to the European market but since the preferential prices have been discontinued in October 2017, it has cut profits by half. Love news spoke with William Neal, Communications and Government Affairs Officer of the Belize Sugar Industry who said that Belize has challenges when it comes to the market.
William Neal – Communications and Government Affairs Officer of BSI: “Of course, traditionally the E.U. was the most important market because of the preferential treatment that we received. It’s still the case except the prices are not so good. We are competing in a world where you have a global commodity reality. Prices have fallen from about twenty-four, twenty five cents to around eleven to thirteen cents so that is a fifty percent decrease. The E.U. market is still the largest market for us but because of the fall in prices our earnings are not so great and it also means that farmers are not being paid the amounts that they have been receiving in the past.”
Alfredo Ortega, the Orange Walk Branch Chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, explained that payment for cane fell by a little over thirty dollars per ton.
Alfredo Ortega – Chairman of Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association:“Our prices have fallen from the crop of 2015, 2016. We have seen these prices regarding between forty and forty-five dollars per ton of cane so the situation in regards to prices, it has really harmed the farmers from since that time up to now. As you know right now our estimated price at this point in time is $43.83 on which not all of us are on that price because we are being paid based on quality and depending on the figures of quality where we fall so that varies a bit on the different test groups so the price and the E.U. situation has really harmed the farmers in regards to cane prices. If you can recall in 2015 our prices were in the vicinity of $75.25, that is what we got in our last payment in 2015.”
The European Union was pressured by the World Trade Union to eliminate the preferential prices with the Caribbean claiming that it infringed on fair trade. Belize Sugar Industry is looking at the CARICOM market as an option to sell its sugar to and hopes that CARICOM will put into place the policies to support regional producers.