The Santander Sugar Group based in the Cayo District declared its sugarcane crop season opened on February 20 and will close in June, giving the season 130 days. Today, the media was given a comprehensive look at the company, ranging from their infrastructure to their goals for this crop season. Santander produces direct consumption sugar which is sold to the European and CARICOM markets. The company has stated that for this crop season they have planted approximately 35,000 acres of sugar cane within an approximate 20-mile radius of the factory. The company is projecting a yield of 600,000 metric tons of sugar cane for this year. According to the company’s CEO, Jose Rodriguez, the varieties of sugar cane used are similar to the ones being planted in the northern region of Belize. He went on to say that the company is researching new varieties of cane that can adapt better to the soil conditions out west.
Jose Rodriguez, CEO, Santander Sugar Group: “We are using almost the same varieties but we’re trying to bring better varieties that are up to different places. Some of them will adapt better to our conditions and some of them will adapt to the north conditions. What is happening is that the quality in terms of sugar content of the cane in the north has more sugar content even with the same variety that we are using because the conditions are drier than what we have in Cayo. In Cayo the conditions are more humid, the harvest season is shorter and the content of sugar per ton is less with the same varieties, it’s just the matter of conditions of growing the cane.”
While sugar is the primary product produced by the company one of its bi-products is bagasse, used for electricity. Jose Rodriguez noted that this electricity is used for the factory while the excess is sold, supplying ten percent of the total energy that Belize consumes.
Jose Rodriguez, CEO, Santander Sugar Group: “We went into the bidding process in 2013 and from the five companies that won we were the first to comply with it and to be producing. In 2017 we started selling the energy working together with the PUC and BEL officials to be able to close the PPA and produce energy from a renewable source. So as I mentioned we have the bagasse which is the byproduct of the operation, we burn it in a boiler that produces high pressure steam, the steam turns the turbine and then the turbine turns the generator and the generator that produces for the sugar mill and for the grid and this is from a renewable source like I mentioned and this is helping the cost of energy in Belize for the consumer to be stable and at a very competitive world wide price.”
The final sugar product from Santander is exported to global markets through the Big Creek Port in the Stann Creek District.