Screen_Shot_2014-11-12_at_8.00.07_PMThe Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association makes its positions clear on the recent developments in the industry. As is expected, the Association unapologetically rejects and denounces the Belize Sugar Industry’s move to go directly to the cane farmers with an agreement for which negotiations between both parties have yet to be finalized. The situation is has undoubtedly become compounded as the start of the next sugar crop is only weeks away. The Association officials outlined their position of the company’s move and the contract itself in a press conference held today. Dalila Ical Reports.


Dalila ical – Reporting


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“As I mention to you, in our opinion and base on our analysis this proposed agreement is the worst agreement ever in the history of the sugar cane industry.”


But that’s not all the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association senior members went on to say, adding that the Belize Sugar Industry’s representatives have misrepresented the Association’s position in the entire situation.


While BSI has claimed that the Association has been reluctant to close off negotiations and start the next crop, the Association says it is the company that has betrayed the initial intent of proceeding with the negotiations in good faith.

 

Alfredo Ortega


“When ASR came into the picture we told them clearly in front of the Prime Minister and every one that there are certain issues that we have on table with BSI and they said that they will honor all what we have on the table what happened now? Two years after they are coming with the true eyes on which they are colonial masters, wolves on which they want to enslave the cane farmers again and what that move that they are doing of going around with the cane farmers what are they looking for is that they want to displace the farmers, what will happen to the small farmers they will be end out if they sign on those papers that BSI is looking for the and the farmers will end up having nothing and will become slaves of BSI on which their land will be sold and BSI will buy them because ASR has done that in other countries.”

 

Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“Destroy the Association and the only objective is to enable them to make it easier to subject our cane farmers right to an onerous and oppressive agreement that would be detrimental to their interest and which as individuals because of their capacity to really interpret an agreement will leave them open and to prey to the goals and objectives of BSI, they have become a predator who is using the agreement to try to obtain maximum benefits from its investments. Promote our interest and protect our interest against a monopoly because this is what BSI is a monopoly and it is exercising it power to try to jam down a contract down the throats to the small humble cane farmers.”


The next sugar crop is scheduled to start within a matter of weeks. BSI said that it has been the BSCFA that has threatened to place another impasse on it but the association is saying otherwise and following the company’s announcement on Monday, the Association has proposed another interim agreement be signed. ASR’s Public Relations Representative Mac McLachlan said that won’t work.


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“If they are insisting that they do not want to start the crop with an interim, agreement then it is not us that is saying that we do not want the crop to start but they by their very actions are indicating that they don’t want the crop to start because we have indicated yes we want to start, interim agreement because it works good last year and let us try to work out our differences during the course of this crop regarding the other issues.”


As mentioned before, among the several problems cited within the contract BSI has presented to farmers are cane ownership and the payment for bagasse.


Javier Queme - Chairman of BSCFA finance committee


“They want us to relinquish the ownership of our cane even before we get our first interim payment of our product, we get our first payment on week after we deliver our cane, and they want us to relinquish that ownership even one week before.  Secondly, we think and we are sure as farmers that we have been partners for decades because in the present system we share not only the profits, the incomes, or the benefits of it we also share the cost and we also share loses in the marketing, hence we believe and we are sure and we have the right to be partners and the co-owners of the product up to the end of the end product being sold. Thirdly, the mayor fact that we give our product on credit if that is BSI’s interpretation of purchase, the mere sense of giving our product as credit gives us the right to remain or to claim the co-ownership up to the end of the commercialization of our sugar.”


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“The very formula for the payment for bagasse speaks against this realism and this cooperation because it is scientifically known that is it not the fiber that produces the energy alone, it is the bagasse that produces the energy and the electricity that is sold to BEL.”


The association also has a problem with the term of the contract.


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“We normally have signed a three year agreement now they are saying we need a seven year agreement, why we need a seven year agreement we are going to invest 3 million dollars for the expansion of the sugar industry and we need a long term agreement to ensure that we could recuperate our investments, again gentlemen this represent another monopolistic tactic.”


But with BSI official’s haven stated their rejection of another interim agreement, the Association members insist on a third party intervention.


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“Basically that is why then we are saying let resolve this by getting an independent expert to review, if you have nothing to hide we will accept what the independent expert produces because one of the main obstacle in trying to resolve this matter has been their reluctance, their refusal to provide us with the information that could settle this matter and the information relates to the financial audited report and the directors report, these reports were previously accessible to us before ASR/BSI became owners of company, BSI use to file these reports in their entirety as the Belize registry of companies it is there that we were able to obtain the necessary financial information to begin to derive the basis of  our proposal for the payment for bagasse but since ASR/BSI became owners of this company they have completely stop delivering those reports to the registry, they have use the issue of confidentiality for private business to deny us that information and they have even shut the doors of information of their other company Tate & Lyle.”


BSI has stated that in their consultations with farmers, they have gathered that there is the dire desire for delivering their cane hence their intent on ensuring the crop starts on time. BSCFA’s officials say otherwise.


Oscar Alonzo – CEO, BSCFA


“One of the problems that we have that our greatest virtue, democracy and participation is one of our greatest vulnerabilities which our enemies and which BSI/ASR as a transnational takes advantage of rather than try to promote as it requires by the standards of Fair Trade under which we are a member so in disrespecting the Association, in disrespecting our institution they are in a sense also violating the criteria that Fair Trade requires of operators and producers in relation to participation and in relation in signing of contracts for the production and sale of cane products and its derivatives.”


As far as we are concerned, no farmer has signed the contract but even if a small percentage does so BSCFA officials say it would not work out for the company as they would not meet the threshold needed to operate of 6,000 tons cane per day. Furthermore, BSCFA officials feel this is unlikely to happen since their membership stands in solidarity with the association.


Ezequiel Cansino


“Well up to now the eighteen directors are supporting this and this means that we have the full support of the five thousand and plus cane farmers and in the meeting that were made in the branches no branch said that we or them are willing to start the crop with this agreement everybody said that we have to negotiate and they are not accepting this agreement so we believe that we have the full support of the five thousand plus cane farmers.”


But what happens if there is no favorable progress achieved in the near future?


ORTEGA


“If we so want, we have tried in all times trying on keeping the peace that we demonstrate that we have professional capacity in negotiating with them in benefit of the cane farmers but the time is coming that the attitude that they are demonstrating now is really cornering the farmers to do things that will be harmful because they are not looking forward in negotiating in good faith for the farmers in getting a just payment for their material so we need them to understand that as leaders we have been working with our farmer in maintaining the peace but there might be a time that our voices might not be heard by our farmers and other things can happen so it is very important for them and for us but mostly for them because they are demonstrating that they are wolves that they want to eat us, they will hurting our farmers in the way they are behaving so they should be place if any action is being taken that will be harmful for the industry they should be the ones to be blame for the actions they are doing.”


BSCFA has responded to BSI’s letter issued on Monday. The senior members will be meeting with farmers in a special general meeting on Saturday November fifteenth to decide how to go forward under the new circumstances. That meeting will be held at the Escuala Secuandaria Tecnica Mexico compound in San Roman Village Corozal. We will bring you more on the matter as events unfold.

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