BSCFA0008The situation between BSI/ASR and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association remains tense and while the government, through the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, has merely been taking on a position mediator; today the Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced that they have taken a side. In the press conference this morning the Prime Minister says that his Cabinet and he personally feel that the cane farmers have a case.


Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize


“We are convinced that the farmers have a case, we looked at the provision in the memorandum of understanding that talks about the sharing of revenue arising on the sale of any by-product will be subject to future discussions and the sharing of revenue will be based on the result of those discussions and in our view that clearly contemplates some form of compensation to farmers for the bagasse, the argument that the bagasse is waste and it is not a by-product in our minds cannot stand apart from general common sense, apart from trying to admittedly the formulation is less than clear is subject to argument.”


Barrow goes on to say that while each party maintains their right to their arguments, he believes that BSI/ASR’s argument that Bagasse is not a bi-product but is instead waste, is not.


Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize


When, as has now happened, the sugar industry is able to make use of what formerly was treated purely as waste to generate fuel, and bagasse can be used for other things I have seen. When that happens you cannot say that the bagasse is not a by-product. To me it doesn’t, it doesn’t hold water for that argument to be made. We part ways with the farmers in terms of the manner in which it seems they are determined to make their point and to press their case. We cannot consider it helpful for the industry, for the economy of the north and for the country for there to be this talk about strike and non-commencement of the crop. That will hurt all of us, but it will hurt most the very farmers that are being encouraged not to deliver.”


However, given the repercussions that the present circumstance and its prolonged state may have on the entire industry the Prime Minister urges that a solution be reached, the sooner the better.


Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize


“While we will side with the farmers, while we do side with the farmers in saying that they have a case we have to talk to them about the manner in which they can go forward with governments solidarity, we have to concede that were it not for ASR and the investment they made the purchase of BSI we would perhaps today not have a sugar industry.  We have to concede that in addition to purchasing the factory ASR have made already an investment that increases capacity and plans to make an additional investment, we have to concede that in the current industrials relation climate, the people will pull back and certainly phase two of the expansion is not likely to take place unless we can come to terms it is in the interest of the famers for all of that expansion to take place especially in view of what will happen in 2017.”


And while on the subject of the sugar industry, the Prime Minister also made mention of the rehabilitation of sugar roads saying that while the government is ready to fund that project, the urgency of it depends on the cane farmers.

 

Dean Barrow- Prime Minister of Belize


“Included on the 76.72, Government is prepared to spend separate and apart form that 76.2 additionally on sugar roads, of course we need to talk to the cane farmers, because it is a matter of how you are going to prioritize and so I would need to be sure that there is going to be a crop, perfectly, willing and happy to fix the sugar roads but there is not going to be a crop then that isn’t an immediate priority I will have to look at other areas where people can get out of their villages an spend the money there but I will a little later talk about  the sugar industry and indicate how we hope that progress can be made there which would then allow us and put us into position.”

 

In an effort to bring this situation to a solution, the Prime Minister will be meeting with cane farmers no later than Monday of next week.

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