Reports that there is a sugar shortage have been making news across the country. There are indications that it is difficult to purchase sugar on the local market. On an annual basis it is estimated that Belizeans consume 10 to 11 thousand tons of white sugar. Thats less than what is actually produced by B.S.I on an annual basis, but this year BSI expects to produce 13,500 to 14,000 tons of white sugar since the consumption has gone up.

So is there a shortage of sugar? B.S.Is Marketing Director Damian Goff says there isnt; in fact so far B.S.I has produced over 8,400 tons of white sugar. The problem lies in the fact that Belizes white sugar is being sold across the border in Mexico and Guatemala, according to Goff.

Screen_shot_2011-05-18_at_6.44.56_PMDamian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“Where the problem seems to be coming in however is that there are a hand full maybe about six to eight distributors they do freight services to and from Belize and other districts and when they come up they buy sugar as well. They are some of the fortunate few they have been able to get sugar in large quantities and what seems to be happening and the reports that keep coming in to us are that when they try to purchase sugar from some of these conventional distributors they haven’t been able to get it, and the suspicion that we have been getting and some of the complains that we have been getting is that rather than supplying the sugar to the local market the shops and stores that need it, the sugar is instead making real cross the border into both Mexico and Guatemala where they have been able to fetch in the neighbourhood of about twenty to twenty-five dollars per bag more than we have been selling it here at the gate.”

Presently B.S.I has 8 to 9 main distributors and a number of industrial customers.

Damian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“Your beverage producers, the bakeries, ice creams, they are customers as well and they get their sugar directly from us and they make their own freight arrangements some of them have their own trucks, some of them use the same distributors, who do the freight to transport the sugar for them, so in terms of specific distributors, it’s only a group of maybe eight of nine people that purchase in large numbers like that.”

Carmelita Perez-Reporter

“For how long have you all been dealing with these same distributors and has there been anyone added to that list?”

Damian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“I’ve been here now for about eight years and for the time that I have been here it’s been the same group of guys that we’ve been using, as I said these are established people in the freight business they do freight back and forth between Belize City and other districts, some bring rice and onion, some bring groceries and when they are going back they take sugar with them. We haven’t been really been taking on anybody new for the same reason we’ve been trying to see how best we can control the supply of sugar going into the market to ensure that those who really needed it are getting it.”

But not just anybody can become a distributor. According to Goff there are certain criteria that need to be met.

Damian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“The main thing that we usually look for is that you are a legitimate business, you are a legitimate bonafide business operator, as it relates to those who are aspiring to be distributors too. We aren’t taking anybody new in terms of other business people, if you own a shop, for example, w normally try to ascertain that you, as I said, legitimate, we try to get an idea from you as to how many customers you are servicing, if you want to do maybe a little wholesale you have a business that you can maybe do some wholesale from your business, we’ll try to get an idea from you as to who those customers maybe that you will be servicing just to make sure there is no overlap, if we already have a particular person supplying sugar in a particular part of the country and you are coming from that same region as well and you want to distribute sugar in that particular region, we will hesitate before we just gave it you because we already know who are some of the distributor are in that area and so we try to avoid that overlap in the supply going into the market.”

But the bottom line is that somehow our sugar is making it across the border and while some persons are making a whole lot of money with the sale, Belizeans are being deprived of a product that is used on a daily basis. While B.S.I has tried to restrict the quotas given, there is not much they can do once the sugar leaves the compound.

Damian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“It’s a yes and no answer from our perspective, what we have tried to do is to introduce quota system that has been in practise now. Let’s say about an year and a half two years we had this in place where we use historical data, if you are a business and you have been consuming X bags of sugar a month for the last five years , the quota that we will issue to you will be based on what your historical purchase patterns have been. Once the sugars have been purchased from us, however, we don’t necessarily have any control over what the person that purchased does with that sugar. We exist in a free market system and you as a business person can then have a freedom to dispose of your products as best as you see fit no so, while we try to keep a certain control here and we have in fact been restricting the quotas to certain people because we been trying to encourage that the legitimate businesses get it, we at the end of the day have no control over what eventually happens to the sugar.”

In order for the illegal selling of sugar to stop a number of persons need to get involved.

Damian Goff- B.S.Is Marketing Director

“it would more than likely entail concerted effort perhaps between ourselves maybe agencies like customs, the marketing board and even, for example our partners Sugar Cane Farmers Association, it will take a concerted effort for us to try to mange it and ensure that the local market get what it requires and there isn’t a strain or a burden to anybody to get the sugar that they need.”

So far B.S.I has sold about 5,100 tons of white sugar on the local market. Thats 1,100 more than last year when at this period 4,000 tons had been sold.

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