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The stand still in the negotiations between the BSI/ASR group and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association keeps raising questions, in particular on how the matter will continue to affect the industry as was seen in the last crop. Farmers rejected BSI’s 51 cent payment but hope that the matter is resolved by October this year, and they have also asked that the Sugar Industry Control Board act as an intermediary in the negotiations. Earlier in the negotiations, the government intervened to facilitate the start of the negotiations but since the process has not really proceeded as hoped and is basically now at a standstill; the Prime Minister was asked today to weigh in on the matter.

Screen_Shot_2014-07-30_at_8.01.49_PMHonorable Dean Barrow –Prime Minister of Belize

“I told both sides as you negotiate this issue if there is an unpassed and you feel that the process could benefit from the input of an independent expert government would be prepared to pay for such.  Government can’t unilaterally impose an expert to do an amount to some kind of arbitration.  I met with the ASR officials this morning and they are not at in favor of the proposal that some independent expert made, they insist that this is a commercial issue between them and their partners that everybody needs to understand that the industry is facing strange challenges arising from the competition that will be caused by European marketing arrangements that will see the beet sugar producers have the kind of access to markets that will cause, it appears, a reduction in price for the producers of cane sugar, ASR is saying that is an existential threat to the industry, you need to come together to determine how to deal with that and to see how the factory will be expanded and how the farmers will help to increase their production yield, to prepare Belize for what could the parameters in that context they are saying the coming together of all stakeholders that is necessary should start with an ability to work out the issue of payment for bagasse.”

The Prime Minister feels that if both sides cannot come to an agreement, it can be quote, “calamitous for the existence of the industry”. Despite their initial involvement in the process, the PM says the government cannot impose a solution in the matter.

Honorable Dean Barrow –Prime Minister of Belize

“Government is not all powerful, government neither is completely powerless but I will repeat in a situation like this there will have to be a willingness on the part of both of the sides of this dispute to accept the kind of help, the kind of mediation if you will, that government could possibly offer, we are not there yet, let’s hope that they can solve it themselves but if not I will merely reiterate that we stand ready if both sides can see the value in this to intervene to try and assist.”

We will keep following the story as it develops.

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