At a recent meeting, the People’s United Party’s Northern Caucus passed three resolutions relating to the sugar industry. The PUP has agreed to support the amendment to the Sugar Industry Act which seeks to establish a Marketing Committee comprised of all stakeholders. The PUP is of the view that a ceiling to the sugar cane production of ASR should be set. The party says that this ceiling is to protect the cane farmers of the North and to maintain the structure of the industry as originally conceived. Thirdly, the PUP’s Northern Caucus supports the idea that farmers must improve the transportation of the sugar cane to the mill in cost and organization. ASR Vice President of International Relations, Mac McLachlan, shared his views on the resolutions passed.
Mac McLachlan – Vice President of International Relations
“We have no problem in exchanging information about pricing, in fact next Tuesday we have one of our senior people coming that really understands the markets. We’ve already invited all three of the associations to a meeting where we will have an information exchange on the outlook for sugar and sugar pricing so I think we all have to be transparent in this industry moving forward and we will continue as we always have done, we’ve always shared all the contracts etc that we have with farmers so there really are no secrets out there. You know people all they really have to do these days is go to google and find out what the sugar price is. So we are happy to continue to engage and to explain what the market outlook is looking like and therefore from that reflect with other industry stakeholders that we have to do in order to improve our position and our sustainability against what is, in fact, a global commodity price. For the last couple years, I was here for the end of the last crop and we still had the mill running and I will tell you there was no cane coming in and I think we’ve been collecting all the cane here for sometime so I think that is very much a premature discussion and I think conversely what we have to do is ensure that we are helping farmers and farmers associations to ensure that they maintain the kind of cane supply that we need here for the mill. One of the core areas where farmers can reduce their production cost is in the harvesting and delivery system and particularly the delivery system and particularly the delivery system- its traditional in Belize that each small group has its own vehicle and truck and that comes in once a day that is not an efficient way to run an industry. A couple years ago we paid for a study to provide some guidance and ideas on how to reduce that cost and I do believe that associations are looking at that seriously and considering how to do it. Logistics is a problem that we have here and the main reason is that we don’t have an accessible port to us, we have never had and that is always going to be an added cost to us. I will say in the sense that the argument that it costs more to get it to the ship to the market is not necessarily true it just depends on the contract is whether its a freight on board contract or a CIF contract but these are things that we are happy to discuss with farmers and talk to them about but basically there are no shortcuts and there are no quick wins on logistic costs- this was the subject of a commission of inquiry many years ago in Belize and so I think we are going to continue to look at all different ways of trying to reduce cost.”
McLachlan says one of the best ways to reduce cost is to increase the production of direct consumption sugar which is bagged sugar. He says this should help in the longer run.