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The BSI – Santander Saga Continues

In April, Cabinet authorized the delivery of fifty thousand tons of sugarcane from Orange Walk and Corozal farmers to be milled by the Santander Group. The Government says that with this decision, farmers will be able to generate income, which would have otherwise been left standing in the fields. In response, ASR/BSI said that its intention is to grind all the cane contracted to them, as is done every year. BSI says that it was not consulted before the government’s decision. Vice President of International Relations, Mac *McLachlan says the government’s decision was ill-informed. *

Mac MacLachlan, VP International Relations, ASR/BSI: “I believe that the Cabinet decision was taken for the right reasons but with the wrong information and I think what’s happened is that what the due process was not followed that should have been followed. We were not consulted about this decision at all which seems to be very odd because we’re the mill. With all due respect the minister is not a mill engineer, a technical experts who knows about million and what the mill can achieve and all of these things and so for us it was quite a shock. It’s very well established procedure for how something like this should happen and that underlying problem with this whole issue is the lack of management information. It’s always our intention to mill the cane and we have been at great pains to do so in each of the last ever since we’ve been in Belize. Last year was one of the classic case where we kept the mill running even when farmers were only able to deliver a thousand tonnes of cane a day, that’s very bad for the mill and very bad for the business but we respect the cane farmers, we respect the investments they’ve made and that’s why I’m scratching my head a bit to wonder why there is such a drive to get cane farmers to take their can a hundred and forty kilometers to the west at great cost to them rather than to bring that cane to BSI. For a mill that’s repeatedly milled 1.28 -1.3 million tonnes of cane we find it difficult to understand why there’s so much stress about million out probably somewhere under 1.2 million tonnes of cane which seems to be the factor. So to answer your question I think you know you asked the minister yesterday why he seems to be so intent on sending our cane to Santander but I can’t answer for him on that point.”

According to McLachlan, the government’s decision is impractical as it will be costly for cane farmers to deliver their cane to Santander in Cayo.

Mac MacLachlan, VP International Relations, ASR/BSI: “It’s going to undermine the farmer because the farmer will lose a great deal of value from sending cane there. All of this is on the assumption, this whole strategy has been on the assumption that there would be standing cane but the fact is I think that that assumption couldn’t be made accurately unless there had been a proper verification of how much cane is left in the fields. If that had indicated that there was going to be an issue about grinding the cane then the next natural thing is the mill would talk to the farmers and come up with a plan and that’s what should have happened but it didn’t’ happen. It was basically a top down and I think one thing also we really have to remember is we are a private business we’re part of the commercial sector. The government doesn’t put any money into BSI, we’re the ones that have been investing heavily in this industry for a long period of time and yet it would appear that actions are being undertaken which are very likely to have a material impact on our business which you know for us we haven’t even been part of the decision making process and I am struggling to see how that can be matching what the government have been talking about attracting more investment and improvements in the agro productive sector.”