All indications are that this year’s sugarcane crop will be the best on record, thanks in large part to an intensification of efforts by farmers which resulted in excellent quality of cane delivered. But in an industry which has always been volatile and which depends on so many contributing factors for success, stakeholders are always on the lookout for Murphy’s Law – which simply states that ‘anything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong.’ And last week, Murphy struck, as BSI shut down completely due to equipment malfunction. Today Chairman of the BSCFA Alfredo Ortega gave us an update.

fredAlfredo Ortega – Chairman, BSCFA

“We have the news around 9pm, but according to what it was told to us that they had a boiler that went in from around ten in the morning and the other went off around 7:30pm in the night so, the factory had to go to a full stoppage because both boilers went down. They stopped to check the tubing that were causing this problem and they restarted milling on Saturday morning but delivery started at three o’clock in the afternoon when Corozal started deliveries and up to this point in time deliveries are ongoing but the mill is working really with the minimum amount they can with six thousand per day. One boiler is in repair at this point in time so BSI is working presently with one boiler that is supplying steam to the mill.”

But according to Ortega, while a shutdown is always very bad news, the very temporary 2 day shutdown followed by a period of reduced milling is bearable.

Alfredo Ortega – Chairman, BSCFA

“Presently as it is ongoing it doesn’t affect us much, it affect us when it comes to a full stop as what happened Thursday night as way up to Saturday because farmers had already to deliver for Friday and Saturday and those are problems that yes it creates a lower sucrose content to the cane because it takes more for it to be milled, but when factory is running, even though with the six thousand it is receiving at this time well farmers accommodate themselves within that six thousand tonnes per day so, loses that we can say while the mill is receiving , the losses are very minimal but when the mill comes to a sudden stop like what happened on Thursday night yes is then where farmers tends to lose base on the amount of cane the factory is not milling sugar cane.”

So when will BSI return to full operations? According to Ortega, at this moment that’s anybody’s guess but he should receive more details soon.

Alfredo Ortega – Chairman, BSCFA

“We will be holding a meeting tomorrow with BSI and from there we will have more information as to when that second boiler will be fully installed so that they can be both running with both boilers so that they can have enough steam that is needed.”

We also took the opportunity to ask Ortega about a shortage of local sugar. For the past weeks consumers in Belize City and the rural Belize District have been complaining about a lack of sugar in stores.

Alfredo Ortega – Chairman, BSCFA

“The only reason I can believe is because the smuggling of sugar out of our borders because within the factory, within the milling that is ongoing at this time, I don’t have the paper with me at this point in time but we have daily and weekly receivables on how factory is performing and what type of sugar they are manufacturing for them and up to today I can tell you that very well amount of white sugar and brown sugar for local consumption have been made. What I do believe and what had come to my attention is that BSI is controlling the sales of sugar to certain business people because of the smuggling of sugar. What comes to mind is that even with the control that BSI is doing, I think the highest percentage of sugar is being smuggled outside of Belize due to the prices, prices outside in Guatemala and Mexico is much higher than what we are selling sugar here in Belize.”

Today we contacted BSI’s Manager of Research and Cane Farmer Relations Ed Zetina, who echoed the sentiment of Ortega. Zetina confirmed that BSI has produced more than enough sugar to supply the local market.

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