Fair Trade sugar it’s a certification which allows our Belizean product to command premium prices in foreign markets. And that’s not all. Sugar Cane stakeholders will tell you that there are a variety of very valuable benefits which have come our way thanks to Fair Trade. But it’s not a certification handed out indiscriminately and with abandon. In fact, we have to work very hard for it. Today we spoke to Chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmer’s Association Alfredo Ortega, who told us that representatives of Fair Trade are currently in Belize undertaking an intensive annual audit.

alfredoAlfredo Ortega Chairman, BSCFA 

“Our organization the B.S.F.A. is blessed right now in getting the premium under Fair Trade umbrella. But this premium that the association is getting we are not only getting it and do what we want to do and that is it, we are being audited with it and presently we have two auditors one that is in here within the office that is going around checking all the finances and all the spending that are there if we follow the criteria’s, the rules and regulations and we have the other one that is going at field level talking with farmers to see if the programs are being implemented and what is been done and also in regards with the use of agro-chemicals and what is been done with the empty containers in a nut shell taking care of the environment that is one of the biggest issue but also complying with national standards that we have in Belize, so the issue with them here is that they are presently auditing the organization within and outside at field level.” 

And apart from the annual inspection and audit, Ortega told us, representatives of Fair Trade and Tate & Lyle make regular trips to ensure that everything is in order and that the organization is operating in a transparent and accountable manner.

Alfredo Ortega Chairman, BSCFA 

“It’s the B.S.C.F.A. who is responsible to demonstrate transparency and accountability when the auditors come so that gives us the opportunity to maintain certification if we are unable to comply and we have many major non-compliance then we can fall into a decertification or set back in the program.”

That wouldn’t’t be good news for Belize or for the industry which is the lifeblood of the north, says Ortega, because the benefits of Fair Trade have been obvious and far-reaching.

Alfredo Ortega Chairman, BSCFA

“We have seen a lot of changes, a lot benefits that have been there because of Fair Trade because believe me you in the way the association was been handled before and if it was not because of Fair Trade maybe we should have already disappeared as an organization but because of Fair Trade we have maintain the organization we have had the funds to fulfil the necessities of the administration and also at farm level where the organization have been able to provide fertilizer and herbicides and other needs to the farmers in regards to the froghopper programs and other stuff that have been free to the farmers at this time point in time so really Fair Trade have been helpful for us for the past three years.”

And while auditors do their thing in the office and in the field, Ortega took the time to assure stakeholders that the organization is operating the way it should.

Alfredo Ortega Chairman, BSCFA

“I can assure that we are working very diligently in compliance with our rules and regulations that we have. I might say that in any organization there are some errors that can be committed and I do believe that maybe there will be some that maybe that some criteria that what not or maybe at farm level the auditors might find because really and truly these auditors are very strict and are very stuff in the way they carry out their job but in house we have tried to maintain standard, we have tried to work under rules and regulations and I can assure that in regards to bad spending of funds that won’t be an issue with us because we are working with rules and regulations and it is the finance committee that is in charge to disburse any check in regards to different program that are undergoing at this time.”

Last night in our newscast, BSI called for more production from the farmers, and later in our newscast, Ortega says fine, we can do that, but you’ll need to meet us halfway.

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#1 Alfredo 2011-05-01 16:24
Easa Bola De Ratero B.S.C.F.A. maybe it should be called B.G.C.F.A (Belize, Greed, Corrupted, Friends Associated). They should be audited, persecuted and put in jail. People like these are no benefit for the country but themselfs.

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