Tonight, while the impasse in the Sugar Industry finally blew over, or so it seems, much of what was said and done in the honourable House of Representatives yesterday involving amendments to the Sugar Industry Act is still fresh in the minds of many Belizeans. The debate was highly scrutinized by the opposition and other entities that stood against what they call the imposing actions of the Government. From the opposition’s perspective, cane grower and member for Orange Walk Central John Briceno gave a highly compelling argument that resulted in acknowledgement from Prime Minister Dean Barrow calling Briceno’s presentation as one with “substance”. Most enthralling from Briceno’s speech was based on history and facts that past PUP administrations have done a lot more than what people think to benefit all stakeholders in the Sugar Industry.
Honourable John Briceno – Member for OW Central
“I have seen one commercial that the Prime Minister and his government has put on the TV showing that how much they have supported the sugar cane industry and we take nothing away from the Mr Speaker, but if we on this side the PUP were to list all what we have done for the cane farmers we don’t need one Ad but we will several programs to say what all we have done for them over the years, and let me remind this Prime Minister and his government Mr speaker and some of the things just a few of them if you allow me, the Father of the Nation, the Right Honorable George Price, and the People’s United Party brought in Tate and Lyle that created the modern sugar cane industry. It was the P.U.P. government that negotiated with Tate and Lyle to pass thousands of acres of cane land to Belizean cane farmers in the north, Mister Speaker. That is true social justice; not the social justice that the Prime Minister is talking about. We passed the cane fields to the farmers so that they can deliver the cane to Tate and Lyle or to B.S.I. The successive P.U.P. governments opened hundreds of miles of sugar cane roads for cane farmers and through successive P.U.P. governments in the seventies, eighties, nineties and all to the two-thousands Mister Speaker, we loaned millions of dollars to the cane farmers to help the small cane farmers in the north. And yes, this is also important, it was during the first U.D.P. administration—we need to remind them—that they closed down the Libertad Sugar Factory between ’84 and ’89 and it is a P.U.P. government between ’89 and ’93 that opened the Libertad Factory once again. And once we opened it Mister Speaker, when they CAM back into government between ’93 and ’98, they closed down the Libertad Factory once again Mister Speaker. And they are saying that they are fighting for the cane farmers? We also Mister Speaker, it is our government that modernized the Sugar Act, the same Sugar Act that they are now amending, that allowed the real cane farmers to own their cane quotas. Remember when Mister Esquivel was Prime Minister? They made over four thousand phantom cane farmers—they give them fifty ton quotas Mister Speaker so that they can control the association. Many of them noh even see wah cane field, but they have wah quota. We changed the act so that all those phantom cane farmers disappeared and now we had real cane farmers that owned the land that owned the cane and delivered the cane to the sugar mill.”
And while much is to be credited to the PUP for their past success stories in the Sugar Industry, Briceno, unlike any other member of the house, gave tangible, real solutions and recommendations to the Government, citing that we cannot ‘play politics with the Sugar Industry”. He did all this while welcoming the ideology of expansion from the Sugar Factory on behalf of ASR.
Honourable John Briceno – Member for OW Central
“Government must work with BSI and the cane farmers to increase the Sugar Industry from 1.3 million tons to 1.8 million tons an increase of 500,000 will make this industry sustainable and more profitable for everyone. I say this because if we were to use the 2014 price for the cane by expanding it to 500,000 tons more that would bring 46 million dollars more into Belize of which 30.6 million dollars will go into the pockets of our Belizean cane farmers. And I am happy that the DPM mentioned that the Prime Minister has stated that they are going to invest immediately 2 million dollars more for the sugar roads because if we can’t fix the sugar roads we can’t deliver cane. So Deputy Prime Minister please make sure that we start fixing the roads today and do it well, because they like to use those UDP contractors, you know. They have one from Orange Walk Central…I noh wah mention name…they go and they do a really terrible job, and the same Ministry of Works have to fix it and the man still collect for the job. And noh like the one weh do the Phillip Goldson Highway through Orange Walk weh done deh broke up? And we’re spending how much Mr. Prime Minister? Five million dollars? The place done deh broke up. Please mek we get good contractors to do a good job. We don’t have a quarrel with ASR we support foreign direct investment in Belize and we support them to expand the sugar mill but we want ASR to understand that whatever they do affects the livelihoods of over 50,000 Belizeans and we in the People’s United Party will stand and fight for our Belizean brothers and sisters. We have no apology for that.”
Other areas Briceno delved in were the expansion of sugar capacity for the factory, a permanent remedy for the annually deteriorated sugar roads in terms of value for money and equally equitable measures in place for all stakeholders in the industry.
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