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“Sweet Sampling for Sweet Returns”

“Sweet Sampling for sweet returns”, that’s the slogan for the new pre-harvesting quality testing program to be implemented in the coming sugar crop. The program is a collaborative effort among BSI/ASR, the three cane farmer associations, the Sugar Cane Production Committee and the Hershey Company. The program aims to have mature sugar cane tested before it is harvested to ensure that the Sugar Cane with the highest sugar content is cut and delivered first. This process it is expected will ensure that sugar production is maximized at the mill. The program will be implemented in the course of three years starting with six testing groups in the upcoming crop. Those taking part in the first year of the program signed up yesterday during the launch of the program in Orange Walk Town. Our news team was present and Dalila Ical has the story.

“If we make from the same sugar cane that we have we can take out the maximum amount of sugar that cane can biologically produce then that is good for everybody, for the mill, the farmers, and Belize in general.”

“And the improvements will no doubt lead to the sustainability of the sugar industry in a time when it has sustained a significant price cut in the European market.”

Olivia Avilez:

“This project seeks to use laboratory equipment, field equipment as well to help the farmers and the group leaders determine the quality of that cane in the field before its cut and burnt, to determine the contents of that cane.”

“The aim ultimately is to design an industry harvesting plan. The program will include the participation of the eighteen current test groups in the industry and will be divided into three groups. The first group of six will commence work in the coming sugar crop.”

Dr. Carlos –  Chairman of SCPC

“Why is this important its because without a proper plan in place we would not be able to produce more sugar for the amount of cane that we harvest by the entire industry and also by the different groups.”

Olivia Avilez

“We definitely hope for a general industry increase in cane quality. The cane has a biological potential, it has certain amounts of sugars in it but it is what we do with that cane that we will be able to extract maximum benefit. The farmers have to do their part once it reaches the mill we have to do our part to extract that sugar. So if we can work on it together then we can extract the maximum potential of that cane that it has biologically.”

And the industry is already on its way to achieving high sugar production.

Dr. Carlos – Chairman of SCPC

“Without even having a harvest plant for the whole entire industry we were able to break record last year, this means that with a new process that we are introducing we are expecting at least 8% for those six groups that are going to participate, next year adding the 8% and like that until we reach 8% for the entire industry.”

“And higher sugar production translates into better paydays for cane farmers.”

Olivia Avilez

“Each group is paid differently based on the quality of cane that they delivery so that is definitely a direct benefit.”

“The program falls under the Hershey Company’s “Learn to Grow” program. The company alone is investing up to three hundred thousand dollars in this initiative. BSI is also providing funding along with other counterpart investors.”

Perry Cerminara – Director of Commodity Sourcing, Hershey Company

“Hershey is all about sustainably sourced ingredients. Our customers and consumers care about these things , we care about these things. We’ve got a long history in our company of doing well by doing good and this is one of the ways that we can do that when we can partner with a company like ASR who we have a long history with who does things with the highest integrity its exciting for us  to be able to do projects like this so we are all very excited.”

Olivia Avilez

“One of the things that we can do and we do do is leverage some support from some of our customers and Hershey’s is a big customer of ASR in the US not only of Belizean sugar but for lots of sugars but equally as Perry mentioned they also purchase sugar under the very small amount we are allowed to send to the US under the TRQ and as a result of that they are prepared to put this grant funding back into the industry here and the beauty of this project is that its directly helping cane farmers.

Two test groups were part of a pilot program last year and have reportedly seen improvement in sugarcane quality.”

With global sugar prices at a low and the price cuts at the EU market, farmers face lower payments in the coming crops and this initiative helps improve their chances of surviving in the industry.

MAC McLachlan

“We can’t control the global market, we can control our cost of producing cane and our cost of delivering cane to the factory and those are the things that we really want to focus on.”