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PM Briceno Comments on ASR/BSI’s Sugar Impasse

Commenting on the impasse today was Prime Minister John Briceno. According to the Prime Minister, the impasse between the BSCFA and BSI/ASR is very troubling due to the sugar industry’s importance in the economy. Briceno says while investors’ interest must be protected, the government must ensure that the best interest of cane farmers be placed at the forefront.

Hon.John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “There are thousands of us from the north that have benefitted from the sugar industry. Whilst the sugar industry perhaps would not make a lot of money we still depend on that and so that is dear to us and we have to ensure that we protect the interest of the farmers. Now I say this but I need to add also that we need to protect the interest of the investors ASR/BSI, that they came to Belize not because they love us but because they want to make money and that is fine as long as we do not take advantage of our farmers. Our farmers believe that they could come up with a better method of payments and BSI has been resisting and so now they’re getting to an impasse and I believe that if we are at an impasse and their contract is going to come at the end of next month sometime next month we have to as a government be able to step in as an honest broker to sit with the two parties and then try to come up with a negotiation that would be fair to everybody. Both sides won’t like everything but at least we could have something, a working relationship between the farmers, BSI and government. We feel that that is our responsibility to ensure that we can keep that going and to ensure that our farmers, our Belizean citizens continue to be owners of the industry and not just the cane cutters. The amount of rain that we’ve been having over the past week it would be counterproductive to start the sugar crop right now. The cane is going to be full of water so we’re going to use a lot more cane to be able to produce a ton of sugar. Secondly the roads are going to be in such a bad state that we’re going to break up the roads even more and we’re going to break up the trucks and the tractors and thirdly BSI will then start to be complaining that they cane that we’re getting is not good quality and it also has a lot of mud. So probably maybe it was the best thing that we hold it back a few days so that the sun could come out and start to dry up a little bit.”