Screen_Shot_2014-12-15_at_8.34.48_PMThere is finally an agreement to be signed early this week bringing the sugar saga between BSI/ASR and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association to an end, for now. Following several meeting over the last few weeks, the BSCFA presented the final agreement that both parties agreed upon last Friday to farmers in an emergency meeting held Sunday. They only needed the farmers’ endorsement which they got and now the official document is being readied for signing. The situation however is not one for celebration for all farmers as some expressed uncertainty and displeasure over how the terms of the agreement were diverted. Here is a look at what happened at the farmers’ meeting on Sunday.


Dalila Ical – Reporting


A majority of the farmers who attended the Sunday meeting stood and raised their hands in acceptance of the three points agreed upon by BSI and the BSCFA last Friday. Yet, the document is not accepted by all.

 

In over two hours of discussions farmers expressed concern, disappointment and some even confusion over the document.


Farmer


“Yo creo señores que estamos yendo más o menos en un buen paso. Piénsenlo, analícenlo, y algo todavía más interesante creo que algunos compañeros que están hay arriba lo escucharon ayer que estuvimos con BSI/ASR y el Primer Ministro le hice la pregunta al señor Celestino Ruiz, que cuando podíamos conocer los términos que están en ese contrato en ese acuerdo que firmaron entre BSI/ASR y sus palabras fueron bien claras después que les firmemos este.”

Ramon Cervantes Jr.


“No vamos a firmar y después ustedes y todos conocemos a BSI y cuando vallamos y si no dejamos más nos empujan, damos un paso para enfrente nos empujan dos para atrás y eso asido todo el tiempo y por eso quiero aclarar esas cosas y eso es lo que no veo aquí, garantías durante esos siete años que nos va a proteger a nosotros los caneros durante esos siete años y de ir a firmar es fácil señores y señoras pero debemos que saber que estamos firmando por favor.”


Diodoro Novelo


“Estamos consiente de que tenemos producción en el campo también estamos consiente que la apertura de la zafra no debe ser atrasada pero no por eso es que nos van a tomar las ventajas.”


Alfredo Ortega


“Piensen bien, para que el día de mañana para que el canalete que ya botamos de este barco hoy se vaya sin rumbo, piensen bien y no culpe a nadie de los que están haya arriba pero cúlpense ustedes mismos por la decisión que hoy están tomando.”


Present at the meeting was the BSCFA attorney Christopher Coye who explained more on the points


Christopher Coye – BSCFA Attorney


“It is couched as being a seven year agreement but in reality and the practical  effect, this is a three year agreement provided that if the Association, the government and BSI reach an agreement on a strategic development plan which includes and investment plan if the reach an agreement so there is a new act that is done, a new agreement that is done, that is done within one year of the signing of commercial agreement then it would extend to the amount of seven years but unless the Association signs, if the Association do not sign that strategic Development Plan, if it is not satisfactory to that Association and if they don’t sign then it remains  a three year agreement.”


And there’s the matter of the bye-products.


Christopher Coye – BSCFA Attorney


“Under the old agreement, the 2002 agreement it provided that if there are any bi-products that the parties can generate revenues from then they will discuss and negotiate the sharing of revenue from that bi-product. If there are any new bi-products apart from or in addition to sugar, molasses and bagasse, if there is a new bi-product which can make any new revenue then the parties will come to the table and negotiate whether if they will both invest together and that is what the part of the provider speak to about investment together and if there is or if there is not investment by the Association they will also discuss and negotiate how they will share revenue that is what revenue participation means from that bi-product.”


And while some farmers made suggestions for amendments, and asked for a preliminary agreement, the fact was that the meeting was not called for this purpose. The terms being presented were the final position of BSI and only needed approval from farmers.


Christopher Coye – BSCFA Attorney


“That is not the commercial agreement, that is what the Prime Minister presented to that meeting and those three points came about because of discussions between the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the directors and BSI in separate meeting and those are the three points that were determined to be the three points that need to be agreed on and the rest of the agreement which is this document here, this is a draft of the commercial agreement, and the rest there were no major disagreements on so the major disagreements are reflected on that sheet of paper that you have so that is why the discussion here is about those three points, those three points are the points of contention and those are the points the Association is looking for your position on.”


So, farmers voted in favor of what is now the new commercial agreement between the BSCFA and NSI/ASR. Chair of the Committee of Management, Ezekiel Cansino says he is satisfied with the farmers’ response.


Ezekiel Cansino


“Yes, I am relieved since the cane farmers accepted the proposal and yes feel relieved than yesterday.”


But how much of the new agreement do farmers understand? To begin with, there are over five thousand farmers and only about one thousand showed up at the meeting to make the vote.


Ezekiel Cansino


“We are confident the cane farmers understood exactly what we did presented and many cane farmers said that they wanted to put some amendments to the proposals but I feel confident that they are well aware to what they all agreed.”


But some feel, especially some members of the negotiating team that the new terms do not reflect what farmers had requested at the start of the negotiations.


Ramon Cervantes Jr.


“El mandato del canero hasta ahorita de esta misma asamblea constituyeron de dos puntos; uno que se comience la zafra bajo un de acuerdo interino y dos que se adquiera un partido experto e independiente para la evaluación del bagazo para dar su opinión del valor justo del bagazo que eso realmente fue prometido por el Primer Ministro y que el gobierno estuviera dispuesto a pagarlo, el hecho de que estamos en estos tres puntos indica que hemos salido fuera de eso parámetros del mandato que la sala nos dio.”


Cansino says however that they have kept the farmers’ best interest throughout the negotiations.


Ezekiel Cansino


“Well we have to do our own part in the strategic plan we will be part of and then we will contribute the best we can and we can agree better for the farmers.”


After the commercial agreement is signed, BSCFA cannot enter into any further negotiations on the terms until three years.

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