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Sugar cane crop extended

Following relentless pleas from the sugarcane farmers associations, today Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega announced that following negotiations with ASR the 2015 cane crop season will be extended by five days.

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

We all know that there is a lot of stand-over cane and the plea of all associations was that there were several cane farmers who have not been able to deliver not even a piece of sugar cane and that is when and more than ever, that very concern and thought that everyone should get the opportunity of delivering at least a percentage of their quota. We spoke over the telephone several times, I spoke to Mr. McClaclan and we were in communication for a couple days along with Mr. Celestino Ruiz and we finally got to extend the crop to five more days, so they did compromise and said that the best they could do was to extend the crop by five more days. At this moment I want to tell Mr. Carballo, BSI/ASR that I for one am very grateful for making that change in lengthening the crop because these are they type of actions that we need from all stake holders of the sugar industry. We need to show not only to the industry but this country that all stake holders of this industry are committed to the industry and that we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that the industry moves forward.”

However there is a condition to the extension.  With heavy rains expected in the middle of this week there is a possibility the crop may not go until Sunday.

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

“I think I can answer that because I think I forgot to mention that was one of the stipulations that BSI/ASR had reminded me of that. If for any one reason we would have rain and nonstop rain for days then BSI has that leverage of giving 48 hours’ notice for closure. So they still want to have that which I think nobody has problem with that.”

The cane harvest season was scheduled to close tomorrow July 7 at 6 pm.  But farmers were not very happy because they claim excess mature cane would stay standing in the fields.  It is expected that with an additional five days of harvesting, together farmers will be able to bring in an additional 35 thousand tons of cane to the factory. BSI’s Beliz Carballo made sure to mention the importance of a data base that will help in avoiding these kind of situations.

Beliz Carballo – Financial Officer, BSI

One of the things that we don’t have at this time in the industry is really an accurate database with information as to what production is out there and it’s very difficult for us to sit here and say “We’ll have so much left over.” We know that we will be milling close to 1.175 million tons of cane when we go to the 12th of July and that will be close to what we milled last year. The last year survey was showing close to 1.29 million tons of cane and so that gives you a feel for about 100,000 tons of cane that will be stood over based on that survey but that was just a survey it wasn’t 100% verification and so it is really for that reason that the industry is working very arduously putting in place a database of cane production which we call the Sugar Industry Management Information System that hopefully for next crop we will have in place and it will be able to give us more accurate information as to the acreage of land that is out there in cane cultivation and also the production that is estimated to be on that acreage and so that will give us more accurate information on a farmer by farmer basis of really where the industry is and will assist the industry greatly in making decisions including decision for example the end of the crop. I think it is high time that this industry have that kind of information and we look forward to collaborating with the different stake holders to put that in place. That is one of the priority items that the sugar industry control board is currently looking at having that system in place to be used as of next crop.”

Vega also called for all stakeholders to ensure a return to the crop cycle which traditionally runs from November to May.  There was additional good news for farmers.

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

I also want to make mention to all the cane farmers for those that are listening that we will be extending the waiver of licenses up to the end of this month for all the equipment that they use for the hauling of the sugar cane.”

As has been reported, this might be by far the best sugar cane crop season in Belize’s history.  Up until midnight last night BSI had milled 1.135 million tons of cane and it had produced more than a 130 thousand tons of sugar.  This is great news as the highest amount of sugar ever produced was 125 thousand tons back in 1997.  Vega praised the work of all stakeholders.

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

And this success story is owed again to all stake holders because while the sugar cane farmers associations produce much better quality cane harvested in a much better manner BSI also milled in a much efficient way in other words they were able to get much more sugar out of less sugar cane.  We hope that his continues especially for these next five or six days for the cane farmers to ensure that they burn cane in the most responsible manner and the harvesting they were doing three or four months ago continues because we don’t want to lose the quality that we have worked so hard for the entire crop so again I want to tell the cane farmers please continue harvesting in the most responsible way and I want to ask BSI to ensure that they continue the same efficient manner in milling the sugar cane.”

If everything goes as planned by Sunday farmers would have delivered 1.175 million tons of cane, 30 thousand tons less than last year’s crops, but best of all the amount of sugar produced is expected to reach close to 141 thousand tons by the close of the crop: that is 15% more production but with less cane.