PM says GOB Cannot Intervene in Sugar Impasse
The impasse between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries/American Sugar Refinery (BSI/ASR) seems it will not be resolved anytime soon. Both parties remain at odds over the commercial agreement, particularly the price-sharing mechanism. The association and the miller are unable to agree on most things, including the appointment of a mediator. As the days go by, it seems that the impasse will delay the start of the new sugar cane crop season. The association is asking for the government to intervene. Prime Minister John Briceno told Love News that GOB cannot do so.
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “That has just been brought to my attention and I mean they can make recommendations and it’s for us to decide what we will do. The important thing is that when you look at the crap going I mean we have not only BSCFA but three other associations that have already signed contracts with BSI and who knows? What if we decide we’re not going to open if BSCFA gets to an agreement? And what if then the other associations then decide to sue the government to say now you are preventing me from earning a living. So we have to find the best balance to be able to get this going. We need to find a way how we can get the negotiations going and at the same time I believe allowing all farmers to be able to deliver whilst the BSCFA continues their never ending negotiations.”
Reporter: Will the government intervene at some point?
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well we can’t in a way because these are two private entities. We can’t pass legislation to say well BSI you have to pay more because if we do that then they will take us to court and we’re going to lose the case. So it is a matter of trying to find a common ground. That is why since in August I recommended for mediation at that time BSI was not prepared now BSI has said yes now they are trying to find names. I gave a name, BSI accepted the name but now the cane farmers are saying well we don’t want to accept that name because BSI didn’t give in a name it’s just endless games that both sides are playing and it’s unfortunately a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt, a lot of cane farmers are going to get hurt because they would not be able to deliver their cane and the truth is that this is some of the probably highest prices we’ve had in a long time. Part of it is that the world market has to do with it but also it’s now we are sending a lot more sugars into CARICOM through the direct consumption sugars, the DCS, and that has a higher price and so we are starting to benefit from those investments that BSI has done and we hope that more of those investments can be made so that our farmers can get even a better price.”
Reporter: You anticipate a delay in the start of the crop?
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: Well I hope not. I hope that we can start the crop next month.”
Reporter: What about that legislation that gives the minister of agriculture the power to sort of settle disputes?
John Briceno, Prime Minister of Belize: “Well I don’t think, and if we were to give the power to settle disputes then how is he going to settle disputes? How is he going to tell BSI this is what you’re going to do? How is it that he’s going to tell the cane farmers association, the BSCFA this is what you’re going to do? It’s an impossible situation. Both sides need to be able to sit down it’s as adults and try to find a common ground to be able to move this thing forward and unfortunately I believe in some instances they have pinned themselves in a corner.”