Sugar Crop Season to start on Thursday despite BSI/ASR – BSCFA Deadlock

Sugar Crop Season to start on Thursday despite BSI/ASR – BSCFA Deadlock

Despite the BSCFA’s refusal to deliver cane, BSI/ASR says the sugar crop season will begin tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock. The mill says that despite months and months of negotiations, it has not been able to come to terms with the BSCFA’s demands, which they say keep changing. Last week, the company issued a release stating that after a slight delay, most stakeholders had agreed to start the crop tomorrow. The company had proposed for members of the BSCFA to deliver under an open agreement until they can strike a deal as a collective. But the group is advising its farmers to stand down and march to call on GOB to force the mill’s hand. Nonetheless, Sean Chavarria, BSI’s Director of Finance, says it will be business as usual tomorrow at the mill. 

Sean Chavaria, BSI’s Director of Finance: “We have long term contracts with three of the four associations. We hope that the BSCFA members will take that opportunity. As our press release indicated if there is an agreement that is signed with the BSCFA  then that agreement kicks in and all the members of the BSCFA will revert to that agreement. So we’re not asking or demanding that the BSCFA farmers resign or renounce membership from that association. No. They will continue to be members of that association. It’s simply to facilitate a way for the farmers of the BSCFA to deliver their cane. We think this is the best way forward given we were not seeing any signs of being able to reach an agreement. In terms of the other question or the expectations our expectations is that everyone will uphold the law. We do have the case in December of 2021 when the BSCFA blockaded our factory. We filed a lawsuit against the BSCFA for that matter, that’s a case that’s going to be heard next year and so we expect that following that incident that cooler heads will prevail, that leaders will respect the rights of farmers and the mill to conduct business in a way that is free from any threats of violence, that there are no obstacles for farmers delivering their cane and that the rule of law will be upheld.”

While the BSCFA claims the mill’s decision to officer farmers an open agreement seeks to create disharmony among the association and disrupt ongoing negotiations, Chavarria says otherwise. 

Sean Chavaria, BSI’s Director of Finance: “If anything it’s an arrangement to try to break the deadlock because we are at a deadlock and rather than the parties reaching closer to signing a long term agreement we’re actually the gap is widening because the BSCFA keeps putting new conditions. Now they want us to back pay two years of fair trade, the mill to do that, they also want us to become the conveyer of the fairtrade premium and for the past eighteen months we’ve said no. There was an attempt by the government to introduce legislation earlier this year to force BSI to fairtrade premium and we have challenged that legislation. That’s a case that’s going to be heard next year. So in our view this isn’t about trying to break the BSCFA apart but trying to find a way for there to be a smooth start of the crop, to facilitate the members of the BSCFA to deliver their cane because the alternative was to start without them which for us would have been even more problematic. So for us this is a middle ground to be able to start the crop and should and when the BSCFA sign an agreement then their members will simply fold into whatever commercial agreement the BSCFA signs. In terms of being members of the BSCFA from our standpoint they would continue to be members of the BSCFA and simply that they are making the decision to deliver their cane and to sell it to BSI but in terms of how will receive it they will continue to be members of the BSCFA.”

Chavarria added that the mill remains open to negotiations but refuses to offer an interim agreement.

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