PM Briceno’s Swift Intervention Resolves Belize Sugar Impasse: Two-Year Deal Brokered After Tense Negotiations
This brokered 2-year deal comes after six days of flaring tensions, two roadblocks, and strenuous negotiations between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the Belize Sugar Industries. On Wednesday, after all else had failed, Prime Minister John Briceno canceled his meeting with Pope Francis in Rome and returned home to intervene in the deadlock. Within 36 hours, the government was able to sway the mill, and just before six o’clock, Thursday evening, the nearly seven-hour meeting ended. A visibly tired set of key negotiators exited as farmers gathered in front of the Yo Creek Livestock Corral in anticipation. While PM Briceno did not lag behind for a statement to the media, Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai spoke on the end of the sugar impasse.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: “We reached almost to everything that they had requested. Of course when you negotiate you must give up something, you receive something but you give up something and so I believe that both sides may not be happy but theri satisfied with the agreement that we have today.”
Once the deal was made between both parties, BSCFA Chairman Elvis Reyes raced over to the SIRDI building in Buena Vista Village to deliver the news to the association. The two-year deal was a compromise gladly accepted by the cane farmers. The agreement stipulates that this year, GOB will assist the BSCFA in obtaining a fair-trade agreement with Tate and Lyle. If that cannot be done, then the government will take one million dollars and distribute it to the farmers for their fertilizer. Additionally, the Government will conduct an economic analysis of the shipping cost at Big Creek versus the port of Belize within three months, during which it will pay the BSCFA’s terminal and throughput fees. It is an agreement that BSCFA’s Chairman of Finance, Javier Keme, says could not have been reached without the government’s intervention.
Javier Keme, Chairman, BSCFA Finance Committee: “We are satisfied in the sense that we understand that the long term interest that we were seeking were achieved. So the foundation for what the BSCFA is working was set. There was a firm commitment of the Government of Belize to establish a commission of inquiry which will be the beginning of a new sugar industry act that is a commitment, it’s not a promise anymore it’s a commitment so we have a written commitment on them for that to happen in the next two years that is why we agreed for that period.”
Reporter: Do you believe this could have been done without the government’s intervention ?
Javier Keme, Chairman, BSCFA Finance Committee: “No. It couldn’t. We had tried since 2015 different ways even mediation and it hadn’t worked. I would even say that it had failed up to today.”
In addition to all the stipulations, Prime Minister Briceno signed a letter dated January 4, addressed to the Chairman of the BSCFA, committing to begin the work of the Commission of Inquiry within 30 days.