PM Briceño says Interim Sugar Agreement Should Only Be Implemented for One Year
The future of Belize’s Sugar industry remains in limbo for the next several days as the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) and the Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refinery Group (BSI/ASR) remain at odds over the commercial agreement. Despite conducting several rounds of negotiation, and even requiring the assistance of a mediator, the two parties remain divided. The government of Belize has been called upon on several occasions to intervene much like what it did two years ago; however, GOB says that the private entities need to work out the issues on their own. BSI/ASR says they are ready to commence milling since the three other cane farmer associations have signed their agreements; however, the lack of an agreement with the BSCFA is causing a delay. While both parties have remained mum about the mediations, BSI/ASR issued a press release suggesting a temporary solution of a two-year interim agreement on the same terms as the last crop to provide time for further negotiations to be held, without having to disrupt the livelihood of the cane farmers. Today, Prime Minister John Briceño weighed in on this suggestion stating that two years is too long.
Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: We have been doing everything to encourage the process so that they can find common ground. We’re not there yet. I’m still hopeful that we can get there. The plan now is that we are asking for I know BSI issued a press release saying that they’re prepared to sign on for two years but we believe we don’t need two years we’re going to ask for one year for both of them and to work in earnest now seriously and then that probably BSI then can present the cost the actual cost of manufacturing what we call the direct consumption sugars for instance the actual cost to get to the net strip value as part of the negotiations so that again the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association could also see and then convince themselves that maybe BSI is right, maybe not. It is more than just looking at the price formula but also has how as a government we could find ways to assist our farmers to be able to increase productivity. I think right now the average is around 18 tons per acre so we’re looking at the possibility of working with the IFIs to make funding available at very low interest rates and long term payment so then the farmers can use this money to invest to increase productivity. But that also has to be in line with what BSI is going to do.”