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Screen_Shot_2014-11-17_at_8.33.57_PMThe Sugar Industry continues to make headlines tonight as it currently finds itself navigating in turbulent waters due to the current impasse in the bagasse negotiations between BSI/ASR and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. If you follow the developments of the Sugar Industry you might be well acquainted with the story by now. A few days ago BSI dropped the bomb on the BSCFA when they announced that they were willing to sign contracts with individual farmers or small reaping groups in order to commence the 2014/2015 crop in time. Since then BSI/ASR has met with cane farmers presenting the seven year agreement and its conditions. The agreement, says BSCFA, is the worst they have seen in the history of the industry, meaning that it is not beneficial for cane farmers. And while BSI/ASR has done everything in its power to convince cane farmers to sign on to the contract, BSCFA is fighting hard on the other side of the ring trying to persuade cane farmers to do otherwise. An according to representatives of the association they have won round one, or at least that is the perception they got after meeting its members on Saturday.


Dalila Ical - Reporting

The emergency meeting between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and its members was called on Saturday after BSI/ASR announced that they were willing to sign a seven year contract with individual cane farmers or reaping groups in order to commence the 2014/2015 crop. The move was made by the miller after all attempts to have BSCFA sign on to the company’s proposed commercial agreement failed. The points of contention being, who owns the cane and a payment for bagasse.

In the contract handed out to cane farmers recently, BSI/ASR is still proposing a 51 cents payment per ton of bagasse and that the rightful owner of the cane, be clearly stipulated in the agreement. While some cane farmers might be considering signing on to the contract, the BSCFA is saying not so fast.

In the meeting, attended by more than 500 cane farmers, the tide changed as the membership passed three resolutions. For one they are giving the Sugar Industry Control Board, the regulating body of the Sugar Industry, five working todays starting today, to intervene in the matter. Cane Farmers want SICB to act as intermediary and to have BSI/ASR sign an interim agreement in order for the crop to commence and two: that an independent expert be brought in to look at and give an independent view to both formulas presented for payment of bagasse.

This is not the first time that BSCFA is requesting the intervention of an independent expert. But hopefully this time their request will be taken more seriously by the SICB.

Gabriel Martinez- Chairman Sugar Industry Control Board

“We had entertained that request in a meeting but I must say that at that particular meeting both parties BSCFA/BSI had decided to go back to the negotiating table and to give sometime for the negotiation to continue so that negotiation was put to halt.


“You are saying that where that meeting was concerned where the independent expert was discussed, you are saying that BSI and the BSCFA asked for more time but the BSFCA has made it clear that they continue to maintain their request for the intervention for the SICB and which is the SICB who told them to go back to the negotiating table.”


Gabriel Martinez- Chairman Sugar Industry Control Board

“Indeed, it has always been the position of the SICB that both entities sit down around the table and negotiate this issue in a way to benefit both parties and for the industry to move forward and I must assure everyone that we are pro-industry and what matters most at this time is the benefit of the industry for all but at that particular meeting they both entities decided to go to the table and then consider the request for another person to come and look at that as you rightly said the negotiations have come to a point where it seems both entities are sticking on to their positions and now we will look at that particular issue of their request for an independent export to come and look at the formulas that are being proposed.”

BSI/ASR has already indicated that they will not commence crop with an interim agreement, there excuse is, it simply doesn’t work. They have also clearly stated that when it comes to the negotiations of bagasse there is no room for a third party, so an independent expert is out of the question. But this time cane farmers, at least those present at the meeting, won’t take no for an answer and all indications are that a demonstration is in the horizon.

Oscar Alonso- CEO, BSCFA

“The membership also passed a motion that if we start the crop without an interim agreement, if that decision is not made then it will proceed with a big social public demonstration to have all parties understand and the need to resolve this issue before the end of this month so that we have a crop to begin with, farmers want the crop to start, but all the relevant authorities BSI, Government, SICB need to act quickly in respect of the cane farmers request.”


Alfredo Ortega- Chairman, BSCFA O/W Branch

“You see me here standing up, I am representing 8 farmers. Mr. Keme is representing 10 farmers and there are many of us in this meeting that we work as family and we represent family members. So if you see 800 members here and you times them by 5, you don't have to go to 8 - by 5 and you will see the amount of farmers that are here. So the voice of these people that are here today is a strong voice."

The SICB was scheduled to meet on the 25th, but due to the circumstances, Chairman of the board Gabriel Martinez says they should meet at an earlier date.

Gabriel Martinez- Chairman Sugar Industry Control Board

“I will go back on Monday to do a round robin with the other members to see if we can accommodate the request of the general assembly of BSCFA this morning, I understood they wanted to have it earlier and we are going to see how we can accommodate that for the benefit of the industry.”

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