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And just as BSI made its position known when it comes to the Bagasse issue today, so did the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. Right after travelling back from Belize City where BSI and ASR held their press conference, reporter Maria Novelo sat down with Vice Chairman of the BSCFA Committee of Management, Alfredo Ortega, to get the associations reactions on the conference. What we can tell you off the bat, is that cane farmers stand firm on their belief that there should be revenue sharing on the bagasse. Here’s how that dialogue went.

Screen_Shot_2013-11-26_at_8.52.30_PMAlfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

“We have been seeking legal advice at this point, we will be going to our lawyer maybe tomorrow, to see what advice would it be from them in this regard and what we have been doing based on the release that BSI has taken out, I think that the last two release that they brought up they have said that they have called us to negotiate this thing around the table without going into the airwaves and it seems to be that it is only talk because now they are coming and saying that take this in to court and on the other hand they are saying that bagasse is waste, it seem to me that in both ways they are contradicting themselves because Mr. Lima said it is a waste or a residue out of the cane and a part from that they are saying ok take the matter to court because let the court decide on whether you should get or not get anything and we are saying why should we go to court if we have an agreement let us decide based on the agreement we have and come to the table and let us discuss the matter because we as BSCFA we have presented to them in writing our proposal and why it is that we have reached to this ten dollars that we are asking from them and they haven’t done the same, they have not come to the table and present to us in writing and showing their figures why it is that they cannot pay the farmers and why is it that they consider the bagasse a waste.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“The fact of the matter is that they want the matter to be determined in the court, is the Association prepared to take that avenue and how soon will you file that claim for the proceedings to start?”

Alfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

“Well we have not been talking anything about court so if they plan that they will resolve this by the courts, let them take it to court because we are calling them to the table we have been telling them show me your figures and they do not want to do that, we have shown them ours and they do not want to do the same so let them take us to court.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Sir how can you negotiate bagasse when in their eyes the value is zero and you cannot negotiate zero”?

Alfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

Mam about five years ago everywhere in Belize everywhere you could have met a piece of iron, they were unusable, leave that now out there, when you wake up the next morning it will not be there because it has value now. It is the same way with the bagasse first BSI was using it to generate steam and power to the mill at that time they were not selling, but they were having a benefit out of it but now that they have the plant and are using the bagasse as a bio fuel, it is generating income to them so what we are saying is since you are now using the bagasse to create an income for you pay us what we deserve. So I don’t see how they can say now that it has zero value because they are collecting millions of dollars, it has a value they are not collecting ten dollars from BEL, they are collecting millions. It is like making a cake you need the elements, the flour, the egg, the butter and what’s not and after you make the cake how will you tell me the cake has no value if you have used all these products. So in this regards the bagasse has a value even before it is converted because it is being used for the plant to generate the electricity, so if they don’t have the two things that they need is the plant and the bagasse, if they have the plant and they don’t have the bagasse they cannot do anything.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“Will you guys still be delaying the crop season?”

Alfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

“Well, mom that is the mandate of the farmers.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“BSI is saying that time is of essence and timing is crucial and it would impact the entire nation?”

Alfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

“Why is it that they are coming with this now, when we told them from the very beginning let us finalize this issue before that time reach because we know we are people that understand very clearly we don’t want anybody to lose and I have mentioned this from ever before we don’t want to loose and we don’t want our farmers to lose so why is it now that BSI will come today and say that the farmers will be losing and the industry will be losing that Belize will be losing if they had that from the very beginning why is it that they didn’t came very clear from the very beginning let us settle this thing and if they don’t want to, show us why is it that they cannot pay us they haven’t done that so they are not serious in this issue.”

Maria Novelo – Reporter

“We understand the position of the BSCFA but how long can the farmers sustain without delivering to the mill, you won’t be getting any money?”

Alfredo Ortega – Vice Chairman, BSCFA

“Well, that will depend, we have sent a letter to the Prime Minister and we will see what will come out of that meeting with the Prime Minister and from thereafter if we have to call another meeting with the farmers and we will present to the farmers what we have at that point and let the farmers decide.  Once the farmers decide other things we have to respect that but on the meantime the farmers have placed us and they reiterated this demand that we seek negotiation and if the negotiations doesn’t finalize by having a benefit out of the bagasse that they are not prepared to deliver so that is a mandate from the farmers and a we as the leaders have to respect that.”

In the interim, BSCFA says it will continue to knock on every door and patiently await a better response from BSI to finally come to the negotiating table.

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