On Monday the BSCFA received notice of an interim injunction prohibiting them from signing an agreement with BSI/ASR. That was filed by Lucilo Teck, a cane farmer who has said was a move to support the five branch directors who have opposed the agreement and called for a special general meeting before proceeding with further negotiations. That would be withdrawn once that meeting is held says Teck, so by all accounts this should be the case now that the requested meeting has been scheduled for this coming weekend. That however is not the only legal action Teck had intended to undertake. Today, he was back in Belize City preparing an application to file a mandamus order for the Sugar Industry Control Board to fulfill its obligations as stipulated in the Sugar Act.

 

Screen_Shot_2014-12-30_at_8.11.51_PMLucilo Teck


“Esto es algo de emergencia, tan pronto se le mande la carta y nosotros le vamos a pedirle hoy que se le de tres a cuatro días que cumpla y si no cumple es una demanda tiene que ir a la corte con sus abogado y el Attorney general tiene que responder porque no lo esas abriendo y a ver quién va a ganar creemos que el Beliceño tienen que despertar y saber sus derechos y lo que está sucediendo nuestros norteños la mayoría no conocemos nuestros derechos legales y por eso estamos en las desventajas en la cual nos quiere manejar la compañía.”


Today we asked Chair of the Committee of Management, Ezekiel Cansino whether or not the SICB indeed has this obligation. This is what he responded.


Ezekiel Cansino - Chairman of the Committee of Management


“The attorney says yes…it’s true that they have the right to set a date.”


Lucilo TECK


“Porque no se está ejecutando? Es un pregunta que yo te puedo contestar, las personas que forman la mayoría haya son nombrados por la directiva política y ellos no pueden tomar decisiones si los jefes quien los pusieron haya no pueden hacer esas decisiones porque pierden sus trabajos por eso hoy de ir a la ciudad de Belice y que se haga justicia pero para el bienestar del canero, y estamos siendo hoy para que sepa el canero que no solo estamos frenando que no haiga zafra a lo contrario es para que sepan lo últimos que van a perder y también estamos asegurando de la compañía que la corte va a ordenar sin agreement tiene que haber zafra.”


Ezekiel Cansino - Chairman of the Committee of Management


“I don’t know how it would work but in a meeting the Prime Minister said that he can put a date for the start for crop but if BSI doesn’t want to grind the cane then what he can do with BSI and the same thing can happen, BSI can open their gate and if the cane farmers doesn’t want to deliver the cane what can happen.”


In its press release issued today, the government addressed this matter saying that the NTUCB and now the ROC quote, “completely misrepresents the legal position and ignores the practical fact that successful operation of the sugar industry in Belize requires the free consent and voluntary participation of both the grower and the miller of the cane. The Government of Belize makes clear that it would be unthinkable in a democracy based on the rule of law, respect for private property and the rights of investors, for any arm of the state to seek to use compulsion against any party to a private-sector commercial dispute. And, not surprisingly, the Sugar Industry Act neither contemplates nor allows any such thing. Indeed, the scheme of the legislation mandates multi-stakeholder consultation before

the SICB can fix a start date for the annual sugar crop; and does not, on a proper reading, allow the SICB to act unilaterally,” end of quote. Yet, some stakeholders feel differently.


Alfredo Ortega


“The situation with this is that we have always come together between the Association and BSI and they present to us what is the status of the mill, if it is ready to start on a certain date and we pronounce to them what we can see at the field level, how the sugar roads are, if we can start a crop on a certain period of time looking upon the weather and seeing how things are, what is the wet conditions of the field and base on that we sit together and we set a date, then it is the SICB that pronounce that date to the different medias that crop will start on a certain day and that comes also for the end of crop and that is a very sticky point because that is the situation that can happen that we can sit down together and look forward to see how prepared we are and the mill to start a crop, how the farmers are prepared how the sugar roads are prepared but if we are acting in good faith and say we are prepared and let us do this and continue our negotiation into the other way and at the end of the day looking forward for the benefit on both sides. Where does this put the whole process is because the SICB has not come in as one of the stakeholders into this issue because they should have stepped in from long before so we are using that as a tool to start the crop because that is the biggest contention that the farmer have they want to deliver their cane and it think it is very important for them to look forward into what their responsibilities are within the act and to act upon.”

 

The government adds however that as Chair of the SICB, it states for the avoidance of doubt that it will uphold the proper mandate of the Sugar Industry Act, and will not countenance any resort to illegal

unilateralism or strong-arm tactics.


In the meantime however, there is concern over the loss of crop which has been ready for harvest since the beginning of December. For his part, for example, Cansino says his branch, San Estevan farmers, which is the largest, stands to lose about twenty percent of their crop already. This translates to about thirty thousand tons of cane left on the field for this branch alone.


Ezekiel Cansino - Chairman of the Committee of Management


“My branch is not agreeing with this Special General Meeting because they say that as a branch and them being the largest one we are being the most affected because we are losing a lot of revenue since our production over this year is over 150,000 tons.”


Cansino has been an avid supporter of signing the agreement with the company but those in opposition to signing the agreement reiterate that they too want the crop to start.


Alfredo Ortega


“We are saying that we want a crop to start but I think what evaded everything for the farmers to really sit down and analyze what was being presented to them was the 2.5 million that was brought up in a very early stage so what we are looking for now is that the farmers understand and that would be the only things on the agenda we will speak clearly on it.”

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