Is there a sugar scarcity in Belize ?
Bakers, store owners, and the everyday Joe have been reaching out to our newsroom to report what they say is a, “sugar scarcity”. The issue has reportedly led to an increase in sugar at stores where it is available. However, today, our newsroom reached out to the country’s main sugar producer and found out that the issue may have to do with our neighbors in the west. Vejea Alvarez tells us more.
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: If you’ve been having a hard time finding sugar on the shelves, you’re not alone. But is there a sugar shortage? The Belize Sugar Industry says not on their end. Sean Chavarria, director of finance at BSI, says that near numbers show an uptick in sugar sales over the past year.
Sean Chavarria, Director of Finance, BSI: “It’s something that we’ve received reports as well from some supermarkets, from some stores that they haven’t been able to obtain their products from the usual source of supply. So it’s something that we’re looking into as well because from our standpoint our sales have been normal. We typically produce all the sugar that the country requires for the full year in the first six months of the crop. So we produced, for example, all the sugar that will take us up until January of next year in this past crop so that we have sufficient supply. And our sales, both sales of plantation-white and brown sugar have been higher than last year.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The mill works with a diverse range of customers and distributors that sell sugar both on a retail and wholesale level. Chavarria explained that the issue occurs somewhere along the supply chain, and the mill believes that the scarcity is a result of contraband making its way into Guatemala.
Sean Chavarria, Director of Finance, BSI: “In the neighboring countries the price for both white and brown sugar are much higher than Belize. And in the past our experience has been that this creates some sort of pressure here in the domestic market for buyers to come all the way into Belize to buy sugar to take across the border. But we don’t have control over the monitoring of borders, so it’s very difficult for us to verify that with a high degree of confidence. But we know in the past from experience that those differential in prices can cause some short-term market distortions in Belize.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The factory has churned out tons of sugar and says it has enough to supply the country for the remainder of the year. So if there isn’t a shortage of production, what can be done to ensure there isn’t a scarcity among retailers? Chavarria says that two things can be done to solve the issue.
Sean Chavarria, Director of Finance, BSI: “I think what we might need some support on is to find out, you know, why is it that, you know, the Belizean consumer are not able to access product. And if it did indeed as we may suspect to be the case, a matter of sugar leaking across the border then that is something that is not within our control and we will need support to help monitor it. And that is one of the reasons as well we requested the government to adjust the price for sugar, particularly brown sugar, because it is artificially low compared to the price across the border, which brown sugar can sell for three times the price that they can purchase here. So that is what gives incentives for people to come here, buy sugar cheap and make a profit by selling it across the border.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News.