The impasse in the sugar industry continues and there are only seven days to the suggested date for crop to start. Last week, following the meetings with the representatives of the Sugar Industry Control Board, and the Prime Minister on Friday there seemed to be a possibility for a way forward but up until yesterday’s Annual General Meeting of the BSCFA, there seems to be uncertainty. While the event’s agenda included financial reports, discussions surrounding Fairtrade premiums and accountability, farmers were pressed on dealing with the issue of the negotiations with BSI ASR. On Friday the Prime Minister stated that the BSCFA has modified its position somewhat in an effort to have matters resolved but neither he nor the BSCFA members would elaborate on what these modifications are. However, while they speak of certain flexibilities, farmers reiterated their stance at yesterday’s AGM. Dalila Ical reports.
Dalila Ical – Reporting
“The farmers are firm on that expert and start with interim agreement but it is obvious and Mr. Alonzo said it, BSI doesn’t want an interim agreement so we are simply saying the committee of management that if that is so then let’s negotiates with all those five issues that are in controversy.”
And the hundreds that showed up for the BSCFA’s Annual General Meeting reiterated their position but just like the media, farmers also want to know what is behind all the talk about the BSCFA demonstrating new flexibility in the negotiations.
“La Asociación cañera está dando tanta flexibilidad adonde se puede firmar un de acuerdo tan pronto sea posible, caneros y cañeras eso es lo que queremos saber porque yo no estuve per se entiende que se habló del dueño de la caña, se habló de aceptar el cincuenta y un centavo, se aceptó de firmar un contrato de siete años cuando sea esas mismas condiciones que ustedes han dicho que no van a ceder, esa es el problema que tenemos ahorita, como quien dice we stayed puzzled.”
“I don’t want to say exactly if we haven’t but then as soon as we get the date to meet we will try to inform BSI and the government where the areas and what we need to negotiate.”
“Will you be able to go to BSI with that position if the farmers don’t give you the mandate today?”
“As I have said we will be going to negotiate and what we can agree upon that and I have to come with the Assembly and present it to them so what we can be signing.”
On Friday the Prime Minister indicated he would speak with BSI ASR but there is still no word on whether BSI will go back to the table. To date, the government has only taken the position of mediator, but this for some farmers is not enough.
“We are to stay together, we are to unite, it is time for us to unite and what puzzle me is to see our Prime Minister, the Honorable Dean Barrow, the government of the day has not taken strong action in securing and protecting the interest of the cane farmers, they are the backbone of this economic situation.”
A majority of the farmers remain committed to their cause but for some, time is ticking and survival takes precedence.
“Si me tienen que matar pero voy a meterlo porque saben que el gobierno tiene su manejo, la Asociación tiene su manejo y American Sugars tiene su manejo , hermanos caneros ojala que ustedes mismos no sientan la sanción un día que si American Sugars tiene que cerrar y se va vamos a quedar peleando yo y tú él y ella.”
Whatever course the situation will take within this week is unsure but farmers are determined to stand their ground. Farmers passed a motion to keep members of the surveillance and Finance Committees on the negotiating team.
We have been made to understand that the BSCFA is holding an emergency meeting in Corozal tomorrow but were not informed as to the reasons for calling the meeting. We will keep following the story as it develops
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