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The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association Writes BSI/ASR to Terminate Existing E-Commercial Agreement

Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) has written to BSI/ASR, informing them that it has decided to terminate the existing e commercial agreement with the aim to negotiate a new agreement. In response, BSI/ASR wrote an open letter to all stakeholders saying this means that BSCFA farmers do not have a contract to deliver cane to BSI next crop. Communications and Government Affairs Officer for BSI/ASR, William Neal says this action threatens to disrupt the industry at a time when it can least afford any kind of turmoil given the challenges of climate change, Covid-19 and global commodity market factors. Neal added that without ASR’s current and future anticipated investments, it is unlikely the northern sugar cane industry would be viable in the long term.

William Neal, Communications and Government Affairs Officer, BSI/ASR: “What we’re afraid of is that when we had the negotiations seven years ago that we saw a delay in the start of the crop for two years and it cost the industry approximately $20 million dollars we feel that given all the challenges of climate change, COVID-19 and of course the market forces outside of the country where you see a very low commodity price we thought that this would not be the best time to do that. The agreement itself serves the industry well. There’s a value share and it’s 65 farmers and 35 to the mill. We feel that perhaps we could look at some amendments but the core values of the agreement itself have been there for decades and they have worked and to do anything else at this point would perhaps we’d run the risk of actually having another delay or another disruption of the industry itself and we just feel that that would not be in the best interest of anyone of us so we’ve all been struggling in terms of making sure that we have, we weather the storms of low pricing and all the other challenges that we face we just feel that this would not necessarily be the best time to go ahead and reopen the entire agreement to negotiations at this point.”

BSI/ASR says it is also aware of misleading information being circulated to cane farmers by the BSCFA’s leadership regarding BSI’s investments and their impacts on the industry and on cane farmer’s livelihoods. Neal says that while BSI is always available to discuss issues with the BSCFA in a constructive way, it is not prepared to reopen the key terms of the commercial agreement.

William Neal, Communications and Government Affairs Officer, BSI/ASR: One of the key things here is that they decided to terminate the contract and do a complete renegotiation. We would prefer not to do that, we have three other associations and we will have to see how it goes but BSCFA has not written to say what they would like to see in terms of changes or amendments. They said they wanted a new agreement and as I said before the core values of the agreement itself has been there for decades and what else could you want other than the value share to change or for some other maybe revisit bagasse. We feel as a company that we are investing, we’re doing everything in terms of sustainability, we’re all going through a very difficult time there’s nothing that we can give in terms of more to the associations in terms of money, in terms of how it affects the value share. So we just prefer not to pretend that we are coming to the table with an eye to offer more because we simply cannot. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with the government and open our books to show exactly what the losses have been for the company but we also believe that as an industry it’s important that we continue to invest and reduce the bottlenecks that we have as an industry going forward. We cannot afford it. I think the way the act is written you have to be – the association – has to sign an agreement in order to deliver. BSCFA membership will then have to make a decision if at the start of the crop there’s no contract in place or any agreement in place what they’re going to do and I think that’s an internal conversation for them. We will receive cane from the associations that have an agreement with us and as we’ve always done.”

BSCFA issued a release, denouncing what it calls unfounded statements made by BSI/ASR. The association believes that BSI/ASR is seeking to intimate and create uncertainty and insecurity among its members.