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Sugar prices plummeting, farmers struggling

In October 2017, the European Union discontinued the preferential rate that it offered Belize as well as the rest of the Caribbean in an effort to comply with the World Trade Organization’s rules.  This loss compounded with the drop in prices of sugar on the world market has cane farmers suffering tremendously. Love news spoke with Jose Mai, Area Representative for Orange Walk South, who said that it is a challenge for farmers to stay afloat given the current tide of the world market despite receiving a fuel subsidy from the government.

Jose Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: “We have a fuel subsidy, it’s not a duty exemption it’s a portion that we get. That helps us to meet the ends. For example, some farmers whenever they harvest sugar cane they are unable to meet the cost of harvesting so they would turn that money into cash sometimes or hand it over to the harvesting group for fuel that makes up the difference. In my particular case I use my fuel to work my fields but it does help but it is not the solution to the problem or besides that our cost of producing is far too high, our roads are in very bad condition, the wear and tear is very high on vehicles, you burst a tire on the road and that is it for your crop you are not making any money.”

Mai explained that improvements would need to be made to help the industry remain viable.

Jose Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South: “The only way we can survive is if we can improve efficiency, meaning across the entire production line. If we can produce 50 tons of sugarcane per acre fine. If we can reduce the cost of transporting sugar cane from $28 average to cut, load and transport to $15 fine. If we can reduce the local handling of sugar by ASR 11.5 million to 5 million fine that is the only way we can survive but is it achievable and in how much time is another matter.”

Mai added that the cost of financing is also affecting the farmers’ bottom line since it is far too excessive for them to cope with.

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