Sugar Industry Clash: Belize Sugar Industries Limited Disappointed with Delay in Crop Start
The Belize Sugar Industries Limited, the government, and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association are once again at odds over a decision to delay the start of this year’s crop. Today, BSI issued a release expressing its disappointment with the decision, which it says may worsen the current sugar scarcity. The company says that on December 1, it held a meeting, which the BSCFA did not attend, to update stakeholders on mill readiness to start the crop and settled on a start date of December 15. However, the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) met on Tuesday and decided that the season would start on December 28. According to BSI, the SICB explanation was that cane quality would not be optimal; however, no data or analysis was presented to support the view. The mill says the decision ignored the view of the mill and the three associations who had already indicated that the start of the crop is as soon as possible to prevent the loss of cane cutters moving to Mexico. However, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security Servulo Baeza, the delay was the best option to ensure farmers do not suffer a loss. He says that the decision was made in the presence of the mill and associations, who did not object.
Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “I understand it was ventilated properly. The personnel from the SCPC the production committee that presented data and information in regards to the availability of cane. I think the major point was that we don’t have enough mature cane at this point to start the cane season and that that would have brought about a decrease in quality for the farmers in general. And so I understand one association voted in favor of crop opening two other associations voted for it not to begin and so in total in terms of the voting I understand it went the three representatives from BSI voted for the crop to start along with one association that said that they would want to start and then the other seven votes within the two associations voted against the crop starting at this time but instead waiting until the 28th hoping that by then things will just give a little more time for the cane to mature so that we have better quality when we start the crop.”
Baeza also weighed in on the mill’s belief that the delay would lead to further scarcity of sugar. He says that the short period would not have any major effects and spoke about what is being done to address the root cause of the scarcity.
Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “I have been in communication with them trying to show that they sell to legitimate wholesalers who would then proceed to sell to the shops who would then make it available to the public. What has happened is that you have quite a few people who would go to buy sugar from BSI / ASR and they then sell it across the borders into Mexico and Guatemala. So maybe the onus is on the seller to try to ensure that we sell to legitimate wholesalers. If you sell sugar, if you are a shop owner for instance you would know who your customers are, who your legitimate customers are I would think so they would know. I mean the point is that you know to a certain extent who gets to sell sugar because ASR controls the list of who they sell to they don’t talk to anybody they sell only to a list of I guess persons to the point that I understand that every one of the chairmen of one of the associations who votes along with BSI he also sells sugar he is one of the ones who get sugar to sell. So they are the ones who control who they sell sugar to. I don’t know how that would exacerbate the problem and in fact even all along BSI/ASR has always been saying that there is no way that there can be a shortage of sugar. They have always maintained this position. I say this because when we were putting the regulation to control the export of sugar that was one of the arguments that they used the regulations that why are we putting in regulations for the export of sugar when there is no way that we could have a shortage of sugar.”
Also registering their dissatisfaction with the delay were the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association, the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association, and the Northern Sugar Cane Growers Association, which issued a joint press release.