Contention Arises Over Sugar Regulation in Belize
Statutory Instrument Number Sixty-Two of 2023 is the document that is causing contention between the BSI/ASR and the Government of Belize. The SI essentially is requiring that BSI/ASR provides disclosure on the quantities of sugar marketed, the amount of certified sugar contracted and marketed, as well as disclosure on any premiums or benefits due to certified producers as a result of the volumes of sugar cane produced and delivered. According to the government, this move is necessary to ensure that the organization is keeping accountable and that the sugarcane farmers are being given the proper monies due to them. Minister of Agriculture, Abelardo Mai explained that this is not personal for him, but rather for the farmers.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: “BSI knew that the Sugar Industry Act existed. Under section 57 it clearly says that you need an export permit. All we’re doing is operationalizing the Sugar Industry Act so we did the SI. The question is why are they opposing the SI ? The SI simply is asking for disclosure. Disclosure that they fail to give the cane farmers. When the BSCFA asked them “how much sugar was sold as Fair Trade Premium?” even though the FloCert manual says that BSI should disclose to the farmers twice per year how much Fair Trade sugar is being sold they refuse to disclose to the farmers. The only regulation that protects the farmers from actions like what BSI did, Tate and Lyle did, is this regulation. It is saying – and the reason why they oppose, it’s not all that narrative on the press release they wrote means one thing we do not want to disclose to the farmers or to anybody how much Fair Trade sugar is sold and how much is due to the farmer. Because the regulation is very clear if you sell sugar, certified Fair Trade sugar to different clients how much sugar did you sell and please pay the farmers for their certified sugar that’s all it’s saying you know ? So all the narrative in there in the press release they issued simply means I don’t want to disclose how much sugar I sold as Fair Trade and I don’t want to be forced to pay the farmers for the sugar I sold with Fair Trade Premium. The regulation is very very clear tell us how much sugar you sold that is certified, how much premium due to the farmer and pay the farmer. Once you show us that you’re good to go.”
Minister Mai went on to say that this regulation will also prevent a black eye for Belize on the international market. He noted that the farmers are already making plans to go to Amnesty International to seek an intervention on the matter, which the minister says would not look good for Belize.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: “This regulation protects them and it protects the farmer. Why it protects them ? It protects them from doing unethical things. You can’t take my sugar, sell it and not pay me for it , that is unethical. What do you call that ? Now if you continue to do things like this we end up in the bad books. The farmers right now are going to Amnesty International because they still owe them money for Fair Trade from last year. From what the farmers are saying and from evidence seen is that they did sell BSCFA sugar at a premium price and the farmers have not received a payment yet. So this regulation protects the farmers and it stops you from doing those unethical practices because if these farmers go to Amnesty International, to this international human rights organization this thing will look bad on ASR/BSI and on the country. We cannot allow that to happen so this regulation protects the industry more importantly from this kind of actions. That is what we’re seeking. Just tell the farmers how much Fair Trade sugar you sell and pay the farmers. If you were doing it right you wouldn’t even have to worry about the regulations. It’s only a piece of paper.”