Yesterday the Prime Minister of Belize held a lengthy press conference where he touched on a number of issues. Amongst them was the much controversial payment for Bagasse negotiation between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the Belize Sugar Industries Limited which is currently at a standstill. As mentioned last night, cane farmers have refused BSI/ASR’s proposal of 51 cents payment per ton of Bagasse.

 

In their Annual General Meeting held on July 20th, cane farmers appointed the Sugar Industry Control Board to act as intermediary to the bagasse negotiations. SICB was also tasked to seek the assistance of an international expert to assist in resolving the current dispute. Yesterday the Prime Minster announced Governments willingness to pay for the international expert, but according to the P.M, that offer was refused by BSI/ASR with the excuse that the subject is a commercial issue.


Today we caught up with representatives of BSI/ASR during a Post-Harvest Conference held by the company, which we will air in a few, and asked them about the company’s rejection to have an international expert join the negotiating table. Basically he repeated the Prime Minister’s words, that it is a commercial issue which can only be solved by both the miller and the producer.


Screen_Shot_2014-07-31_at_7.59.17_PMMac McLachlan, International Advisor ASR Group


“The Prime Minister has often said in the past that he would like to help facilitate solutions to this issue but we were able to point out to the Prime Minister which he understood and accepted that this is actually a commercial issue between two commercial partners it is not something that can be arbitrated on from the outside, it is something that has to be dealt with and understood and spoken about it rationally between two commercial partners.  What we are very keen to have because we have no agreement at the moment with BSCFA we want to negotiate a new agreement that will stand the test of time, an agreement that will set this industry up for the future with both clarity to both cane farmers and to BSI for the future and we look forward to have an opportunity to do that but this stress again is a commercial issue between two commercial players and we believe that is how it should be conducted.”


Carmelita Perez – reporter


“So in way BSI/ASR refused that offer out of malice?”


Mac McLachlan, International Advisor ASR Group


“The point is that anybody is trying to help, is trying to help and we appreciate that but what I am trying to say is that this is a commercial issue between two commercial players the folk that supple the cane and the folk that mills the cane and it has to be taken on the base of the commercial discussion between those two parties and that is what we explained to the Prime Minister.”


There is no doubt that if both parties cannot come to an agreement, this could mean the end of the Sugar Industry. And, while Government is ready to assist there is just so much that they can do, at least according to what the P.M mentioned yesterday. And from all indications, BSI/ASR agrees.


Mac McLachlan, International Advisor ASR Group


“It’s an issue about the supply and usage on sugar cane and basically that has to be negotiated between those two parties, it is a commercial issue as in any commercial discussion as the Prime Minister said that is not the role of government obviously he helping to facilitate the process but at the end of the day this has to come down to a commercial agreement between ourselves and the cane farmers.  We are always dispose to continue that discussion because we will need it there will be no cane industry without a mill and there will be no mill without the cane industry and I think everybody understands that basic fact so we are disposed to discuss that further into a proper a commercial agreement that respects both sides in a respectful and a mature way and we look forward to getting on with that.”


No date has been set for both parties to meet once again at the negotiating table. This is despite the fact that cane farmers are asking for negotiations to be closed by October 15th.

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