Government considering solution in attempt to stem contraband sugar issue
Prime Minister John Briceno acknowledged this week that the issue of contraband sugar requires government’s intervention. The cost of white sugar in Belize is around forty percent lower than what it is in Mexico and brown sugar is reported at around one-half the price, making Belizean sugar more attractive for Mexican buyers. This led to a decreased availability of sugar on the local market this year, particularly in the north and west. According to the Prime Minister, the low cost of sugar is a direct result of government support to the industry and that a solution to the issue is still being considered.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: ” In Belize we heavily subsidize the cost of sugar for our citizens and rightly so. But whilst when it’s being sold here at a very cheap price when you go to Mexico and Guatemala it’s being sold for as much as twice or three times the price. Our wholesalers some of them, not all of them, unscrupulously get that sugar and they sell it to people from across the country what they do with the sugar well obviously they don’t use illegal means to get it across into their country and so then they make a killing on the backs of our sugarcane farmers so we need to find a way how we could close that gap and also find a way then how our sugarcane farmers can benefit from those kinds of prices.”
Belize Sugar Industries announced record-high payouts per ton of sugar cane to farmers this week but said that the issue of contraband sugar proves that Belizean sugar is far below world market prices. In March the company had recommended that the government remove the price control measures in place to bring prices more in line with world market prices. Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai spoke on the issue last month acknowledging that a price increase locally would reduce the level of contraband sugar, but that Belizeans would be adversely impacted by the increased price.