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Sugar cane farmers associations write to Agriculture Minister over Santander Sugar

The three sugar cane farmers associations in the north are waiting to meet with Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse over Santander’s decision to sell sugar on the local market without GOB’s approval and the company’s subsequent request to do so. As we have been reporting since last week, Santander’s sugar was found in the local market, specifically in stores in Corozal and Orange Walk. The problem is that the company has no authority to sell sugar on the local market since it is a holder of an Export Processing Zone certification, which means that their product is for export only. For Santander to enter the local sugar market it must first apply for a waiver, which was done on Friday, May 25, a day after the Government issued a stern warning about Santander sugar being found on the local market. Today Branch Chairman for the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, Alfredo Ortega, told Love News that the associations are not in agreement with Santander being granted the waiver.

Alfredo Ortega, Branch Chairman, Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association: “That will have a very negative impact on the farmers directly for the farmers and the industry and the north on a whole because you know the north depends mostly on the sugar industry so having Santander a big competition of one company only because Santander controls everything from the production to the mil they control and here with us it’s 5,000 plus farmers plus their families so we’re talking about 50,000 people that are dependent on the sugar industry and having this situation with Santander turning sugar into the local market that is a straight slap to our face because then that means less money will come to the farmers and more prices will go down and with this increase in fuel prices then really this would be a huge detriment on the livelihood of the farmers and the north at large.”

Reporter: Would you say the only solution to what I guess you would describe as an issue is that Santander not be given the waiver?

Alfredo Ortega, Branch Chairman, Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association: “Well maybe not only that, maybe there are many things that need to be dealt with but I think at the first instance yes I think that the waiver should not be given to them because if I can recall when we were presented that Santander would be given permission to- well when they gave us that information is that Santander was already constructing their mill and many times we ask the question to the different ministers because Mr.Hulse is the last Minister of Agriculture but there were other Ministers before him and we posed that question to them ‘Will Santander sell sugar to the local market because if that is so then we are not in agreement with that and the answer was no that they will not be granted that permission that their sugar that they will be producing is for the international market not for the local market because as you know every year BSI has that amount that they produce in the vicinity of 12,000 to 14,000 tons of sugar between the white and brown sugar that is sold in the local market. So the surplus sugar that we are producing here in the north for the country because the amount of sugar we are producing we can only consume between 7-10% of the amount of sugar being produced. So I say we because we are not in agreement that Santander be granted that waiver so that they can sell because it is really hurting the cane farmers here in the north.”

A date for the meeting between Minister Hulse and the three associations has not been set.