Nationwide Sugar Rationing Returns Amid Smuggling Crisis

Nationwide Sugar Rationing Returns Amid Smuggling Crisis

Tonight, stores across the country are rationing sugar once again. In recent weeks, sacks of sugar have been reportedly smuggled out of the country to neighboring Mexico, where the commodity fetches a higher price. The situation is one that the government has been working to stop for months as sugar remains scarce on the local market. To hopefully remedy the issue, in two weeks, the Ministry of Agriculture will be making a presentation to the Cabinet on what would be an acceptable increase in the price per pound of sugar. Yesterday, Prime Minister John Briceno spoke on the situation, which was echoed in the House of Representatives by both the government and the opposition.

Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “We also have a social responsibility to the Belizean consumers. Secondly we cannot compete with the prices across to Chetumal. The brown sugar that’s being sold at BSI 34 cents a pound is being sold for almost two dollars a pound in Chetumal. So if you want to say we have to raise to the price over there to stop the contraband it’s not going to happen we’re not going to do that. But thirdly it’s also not fair on the cane farmers to have been in effect subsidizing sugar for the rest of our consumers and so the fourth point I’d like to make is that what he has said, the minister, is that we have to find a formula where we can justify an increase where it can assist the farmers nad help to try to see how best it could slow down a bit the attempt to contraband but also we have to work on enforcement and there are a number of things. And what he was saying price control have been going to these supermarkets and telling them who do you buy your sugar from, where from and wanting to trace from the store to the wholesaler to BSI and by doing that reverse engineering you’ll be able to see who of these wholesalers are not seeling to the local stores. And then after that we can go to BSI and say look these people are not selling the sugar to local market they’re allowing it to be contraband. And also we have to try to tighten as best as we possibly can our borders but as you know our borders are porous. We have a very large border you could cross almost at any point in our borders. So it’s a number of things we have to take into consideration and it’s not just a clear cut or just raise the price because that’s something we will not do just to raise it to stop the contraband into Mexico and into Guatemala.”

Belize produces around 160000 to 180000 tons of sugar annually and its annual consumption rate is around 13000 to 17000 tons.

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