For the first seven months of 2017, sugar recorded the highest export earnings. Sugar accounted for one hundred and nine point one million dollars or a third of the total merchandise exports which stood at three hundred and four point seven million dollars. This is mainly due to the preferential rate that Belize has enjoyed over the years from its biggest exporter, European Union (EU); however, all that is expected to change come October, when the European Union changes its sugar regime. The change will cause EU to lift the limitations that it had in place on beet sugar production. This means that Belize along with the other African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries will have to compete directly with the beet sugar industry which is a cheaper alternative to cane sugar. This morning, BSI/ASR invited industry stakeholders to celebrate a ground-breaking event to demonstrate their commitment to meeting the challenges head on. One way that they seek to meet the challenge is by doubling the factory’s production capacity of direct consumption sugar which attracts a higher price than raw sugar in the markets open to Belize. Vice President of International Relations at BSI/ASR, Mac McLachlan spoke about the initiative.
The outlook for raw sugar prices is unfavorable and volatile. However, since the 1990s, Tower Hill has been making specialty food-grade sugars known as direct consumption sugars. You all eat this sugar, well most of you I do, it’s known either as Plantation White or Caribbean Brown Sugar. This sugar attracts a higher price in the marketplace, as it does not need to be refined and there is a growing market preference for these products. Today BSI is announcing an investment project worth $22 million Belizean dollars at Tower Hill sugar mill to almost double existing capacity to produce these sugars. The investment should also improve the mill’s grinding rate to enable the mill to grind 1.35 million tons of sugar in a 26 crop period.
Minister of Agriculture, Godwin Hulse also addressed the gathering and applauded the steps being made to produce more direct consumption sugar which will not have to be refined.
“In the Ministry, we have set a very positive policy of moving from primary production to value-added products, in other words moving from chicle to chewing gum. You know the block of chicle used to go out some time ago for .50 cents and came back as a little pack of Nova Chewing Gum for .60 cents, that is where value added is, that is where the developed countries made their money took our primary products processed it sold it back to us expensive and sold it to the rest of the world. Today’s investment is going to put the sugar directly in people’s teacups, in people’s bun and bread, in people’s cake and it is a processed final product without going through that intermediary stage so it signals a massive step forward in value-added product.”
The investment does not come cheap, costing twenty two million dollars to increase the factory’s production capacity of direct consumption sugar. Another step BSI/ASR plans to take in hopes of mitigating the “shock of falling sugar prices” is to look to the CARICOM market to provide Belize with an additional premium market for its sugar.