The BSCFA says ASR/BSI is not being truthful
Tonight, after months of negotiations the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) say they remain at odds with ASR/BSI. The parties remain locked in a sugar impasse over the signing of a new commercial agreement. The miller and the association cannot agree on the price-sharing mechanism among other matters which may cause trouble for the start of the new crop season. The BSCFA say they want a new agreement under new terms that will be more beneficial to them; however, BSI/ASR is resisting. ASR/BSI says that the changes would bankrupt the company. However, today, during a press conference called by the association, the Chairman of the BSCFA’s Finance Committee, Javier Keme, stated that BSI/ASR is being untruthful.
Javier Keme, Chairman, BSCFA Finance Committee: “They claim that the proposal that BSCFA is putting forward is condemning BSI to bankruptcy. That there hasn’t been any financial rational presented by BSCFA on the proposal that BSFCA is bringing forward and that is a false statement. We have gone, we presented to them in our last negotiation meeting the rationale of how the history has shown from 2006 up to 2021 last crop how the value of the revenues that has been collected over the years for the sale of sugar and molasses has been decreasing. I don’t understand what other kind of rationale they want to justify the proposal of BSCFA. Why do I say this ? Because on their behalf what they call a financial rationale for their position is their millions of dollars of investment that’s the only rationale that they have been putting forward. The last statement they made on that regard is that they invest $60 million dollars as an operation cost every year. Farmers also have an investment in the millions every year. In the last press conference I mentioned some figures on how we as farmers on an average of $27 on every ratoon of cane that is delivered is an investment of the farmer on the production sector. On an average of $27. You add that the $30 average of harvesting and delivery it arise to close to $57 that the farmer invests every year. You put that in a volume of a million tons in production that’s $57 million dollars on average that the farmers put every year so hand in hand they can’t come and say that the farmers are not investing.”
According to Keme, the newly proposed price-sharing mechanism that sees a 60-40 split instead of the current 70-30 split is the most beneficial method that the farmers agree on. He says that ASR/BSI’s claim of needing to recoup investments that have been made in sugar production should be the onus of the miller and not the farmers.
Javier Keme, Chairman, BSCFA Finance Committee: “This model that they’re trying to defend it serves them well. We understand why it’s so difficult for them to release that, to let go that because they have been so comfortable collecting $7-$8 million dollars on average for that $22 million they invested. So we need to get an agreement where these kind of investments are collected back by them on a clear and transparent way. The investment recently they made in Big Creek of over $30 million dollars the presentation given to us is that the same cost was going to be incurred by the shift in transportation method. But then in the last crop when the first estimate came out it came out there with two line items added to the net strip value which is throughput fee and terminal handling charge. You know what happened? When these negotiation thing started ? At the third payment final statement they removed it. They didn’t include it because they knew that we hadn’t agreed on any charge for that. They removed it but this coming crop, this estimate that has been released for 2023 see how they come. They come explaining that there will be a charge again in the letter but when you take the NSV there is no reflection of that charge on the NSV statement so this is the kind of playing with figures with this current NSV method that we want to get out of. If we can’t get out of then we have to have like more clear and strict clauses that will not allow this gaps to be interpreted in different ways that would harm the farmer in the next period that the next agreement is being signed because if we want to sign an agreement for whatever period we agreed we want to ensure that there is no phantom charge to be included later on.”
The BSCFA is also accusing ASR/BSI of sneaking in charges, which affects the profit share, and is calling on the company to be more transparent with its audits. Last week, BSI/ASR responded to the claim and stated that they have given the BSCFA option to bring in an independent auditor who can fact-check the figures. According to CEO of the BSCFA, Oscar Alonzo, the appointment of an auditor would be an additional cost for farmers who simply want to know the true value of sugar production to ensure they are not being cheated.
Oscar Alonzo, CEO, Belize Sugar Can Farmers’ Association: “But these are not audited accounts gentlemen. I think most of you here are business people. Audited accounts are things that range about twenty – twenty five pages because those accounts need to have explanatory notes. They need to explain why is it that they have that amount there. And this is what they turn around and say at last as though they have been struck by lightening like St.Paul on the road to Damascus. That they’re giving us the right to audit the figures that the auditors had it in relation to not their operations just the manufacturing allowance and perhaps to the BELCOGEN account and that audit we have to pay for that. Now gentlemen here we are both entities, both business people, investors because our cane farmers although he only has maybe a standard six education is a businessman in his own right just like how the president of BSI is a business man in his own right. We’re all equal business persons and we have a right if you’re going to tell me that you’re going to take away so much from the value of the sugar that you sell that you take from my cane then I need to be sure that what you’re taking away is correct. Then after that has been ascertained that it is correct then fine if I want I could then accept your right to audit but I cannot audit a figure that at the beginning might be wrong. So what we’re asking for is for verification of the figures that they have been presenting to us year after year. And in the case of the manufacturing allowance without any legal basis just insert it and as we discovered that manufacturing allowance of plantation white was inserted in 1974 during the space of an agreement that was still yet to be negotiated. When the farmers were in a happy mood because they were getting the highest price for sugar at that time I think it was about $75 a ton just like how it is basically right now. So it took maybe eight years for us to get another seventy dollars a ton per cane.”