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Sugar Season to Start on Monday after a Week of Delay

On the agriculture front, there is some promising news coming from the sugar industry. The new sugar cane crop season is expected to start on Monday morning at ten o’clock sharp. That’s after it was delayed for a few days following an impasse between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI)/American Sugar Refineries (ASR). A meeting held today by the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) resulted in the Directors agreeing that the crop commences on Monday. During that meeting, it was also agreed that both parties will sign an interim agreement that would last until April 30, 2022. SICB Chairman Marcos Osorio told Love News that the meeting began with challenges but interventions by Prime Minister John Briceno led both parties to some sort of compromise. According to Osorio, parties agreed to continue negotiations in good faith.

Marcos Osorio, Chairman, SICB: “I must say that the initial discussions in moving towards reaching an agreement for the start date of the crop was not coming forward so during the meeting there was communications with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and we know that the Prime Minister engaged the higher authorities of ASR/BSI and the chairman of management of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and I must commend and give thanks to the Prime Minister for his intervention as he was able to reach the present agreement between ASR/ BSI and BSCFA. So the decision made which then board  ratified and officially approved which is the start of the harvest season to be December 27th at 10:00 in the morning which is Monday this coming Monday. Also that BSI/ASR and BSCFA will engage in negotiations or will sign an interim agreement through to April 30 2022.”

The interim agreement will take effect on January 20, 2022, a day after the existing commercial agreement expires. During the interim agreement, SICB will hold meetings to receive progress from both parties. Osorio says that the hope is that a new commercial agreement would be signed by the end of April.

Marcos Osorio, Chairman, SICB: “During the interim agreement both parties will engage negotiations in good faith which means good faith means that there should be a reach to an agreement for signing of a new commercial agreement. If both parties will engage with in good faith and in the best interests of this industry and of it’s farmers and all those that depend on the activity of the sugar industry then we should see on the end of April 2022 a new commercial agreement between ASR BSI and BSCFA.”

Reporter: In those negotiations isn’t that everything is on the table because I know does CFA wanted to permanently negotiate the price mechanism in the net strip value and BSI was adamant that they don’t want to negotiate it, it’s not up for negotiations.

Marcos Osorio, Chairman, SICB: “Well I want to believe that I think when we mentioned and as how we have a letter from the office of the Prime Minister which states in terms of the agreement that both parties have have agreed to negotiate in good faith which means negotiate is negotiate each parties interests and then reach an agreement on all those be that if BSI during the negotiations is able to get BSCFA to agree well you know we will not reach to an agreement on item whichever one and then they close on two at the end of the day that’s the reason of negotiating where both parties defend their own interests and then with the great hope that an agreement is reached where both parties feel that they have reached common ground and there is a win win situation for both parties and the industry at large.”

However, Osorio also noted that the factory will mill sugarcane at 50% capacity and this would present challenges for farmers.

Marcos Osorio, Chairman, SICB: Important is to be known that the mill will be operating at half capacity which means that the mill is projecting to receive and mill between 3000 to 3500 metric tons of cane per day per 24 hours. This will be a bit challenging. We are hoping for the association’s leaders to be in constant dialogue and communication with their harvesting groups of their associations to properly coordinate who delivers and how they will manage that delivery because this milling rate of 3000 to 3500 metric tons per day will be from the start of the crop down the third week of January. So come there after if the commissioning of the second boiler for the project that will be completed then should take the capacity of the mill to receiving 6600 to 6700 tons per day so the first four week or so of the crop will be a tough start in terms of if a group has 18 tons on the capacity of the mill starting at about 50% means that that harvest group will only have the right to deliver 9 tons per day and there is an important thing here to mention that the transport units  we have been moving to larger transport units to bring about efficiency but now for four weeks farmers will only be able to deliver at 50% of their capacity of their transport units so that is why I say that we anticipate that the association leaders along with their harvesting groups will engage in the coordination where they might need to do rotations where one harvesting group delivers 50% of the harvest groups delivered today for example the next day the other 50 and then you go rotating one in one out. So that then your transport will be operating at capacity to bring about efficiency in the transportation and so on. So that start will be a little challenging in that for example when we think of cane cutters that they are longing for the start of the crop that’s normally a cane cutter that earns $300 a week he will only be making $150 a week more or less.”