The 2018/2019 Sugar Crop was officially opened this morning. Stakeholders in the sugar market gathered at the Belize Sugar Industry factory for the ceremonial opening. The sugar crop opens when sugar prices are at an all-time low. But already farmers and the BSI have felt the impact of lowered global prices and the shift in the preferential prices at the EU market in the previous crop. Notwithstanding, stakeholders are optimistic about the new crop and BSI continues working on several projects to optimize sugar production. Reporter Dalila Ical was at the factory today and has more on the opening.
ASR/BSI’s Vice President of International Affairs Mac MacLachlan: “You know we have put a lot of effort in and it’s wonderful to see the trucks coming in. It’s beautiful to have a nice sunny day to start and we are ready to roll.”
Dalilah Ical: “And with the ceremonial cane toss the 2018/2019 sugar crop season was opened but sugar stakeholders are now facing challenging times. At the end of the previous year crop farmers saw a dip in sugar payments which was due to lowering sugar prices on the global market and loss of the EU preferential market since late 2017 and at the start of the new crop Sugar Prices remained low. ASR/BSI’s Vice President of International Affairs Mac MacLachlan spoke on the industries effort to remain on the market.”
ASR/BSI’s Vice President of International Affairs Mac MacLachlan: “This has to do with a surplus of sugar in the global market, it’s a cyclical business. We are at a low point of the cycle and we expect prices to pick up but not immediately so I think over the next few years what we are trying to do is to mitigate and to invest in the mill. We completed in the off crop a $22 million investment to increase the production of added value sugars and we have just announced during this year an additional $40 million Belize to invest further in efficiencies and greater productivity. The other thing I think that is really important I think is that we are looking at opening up more opportunities in the CARICOM Market for Caribbean Sugar. It is a travesty that at this time 200,000 tons of Sugar is imported from outside the region into the CARICOM region and it is displacing the opportunity for our sugar and for other CARICOM producers sugar so we are working with government and the Sugar Association of the Caribbean to really take in the sense that the single market is there to look after producers and people who manufacture within the CARICOM so we are looking at how we can ensure that that sugar market is protected for Caribbean Producers.
Dalilah Ical: “The challenges have led to fears that farmers may start pulling out of the Industry because the low returns may just not keep them afloat from much longer.”
ASR/BSI’s Vice President of International Affairs MacLachlan: “The sugar prices are of concern to us and the cane prices are of concern to farmers. What we are trying to do is run pilot projects to help reduce the production cost of sugarcane such as mechanised harvesting and pilot projects, that tends to reduce the actual cost of harvesting and delivering the cane. We are also pioneering for the third year and now we are also doing sugarcane quality testing in the field. It is simple really but you are looking at what’s the best quality cane to bring in at any given time and that helps the farmers to receive better revenue from that cane by really just choosing the right time to harvest it.
Dalilah Ical: “In the same light Maclachlan called on financial institutions to provide the much needed support to sugarcane farmers.”
ASR/BSI’s Vice President of International Affairs MacLachlan: “In my address this morning I made a plea to the banking and the financial institutions who have a big relationship with cane farmers here in the North to consider seriously the issues of affordable Agro-credit for farmers to help them through what can be some difficult years due to the cyclical nature of the sugar crop. We need to all be together through the good and the bad and so we are encouraging through our investment which is considerable, we are encouraging the rest of the community to come together to support the sustainability of this industry.
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The projected sugar cane produced for this new crop is for 1.27 million tons. The BSI factory is now able to mill up to 1.35 million tons per crop.