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The sugar crop 2014/2015 has been extended to five more days following requests from farmers. The crop was scheduled to close on July seventh and after continued requests from the associations, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources & Agriculture Gaspar Vega says he stepped in to lobby in favor of the famers. He announced the extension today in a short press conference at the Sugar Industry Control Board building.

Screen_Shot_2015-07-06_at_7.39.23_PMHonorable Gaspar Vega – Deputy Prime Minister of Belize

“There were several cane farmers who had not been able to deliver not even a piece of sugar cane and that is when I more than ever, that very same concern and thought that everyone should get an opportunity to deliver at least a percentage of their quota.  We spoke over the telephone several times to Mr. McLachlan and we were in communication for a couple days and with Mr. Celestino Ruiz and we finally get to extend the crop for five more days and so they did compromise and they said that the best they could do is to extend the crop by five more days.”

So far the crop continues to be a record breaking one and as of midnight last night, the factory is reported to have milled 1.137 million tons of sugar cane. Given the five days extension, the factory aims at milling some 1.175 million tons, which will be about thirty thousand tons less than the last crop. But even though less sugar cane is being milled for this season, more sugar has been produced this time around. In the last crop, 120, 000 tons of sugar was produced while this year, since this weekend, 141,000 tons of sugar has been produced. This is 21,000 tons or fifteen percent more produced with less sugar cane.

Honorable Gaspar Vega – Deputy Prime Minister of Belize

“This success story is owed again to all stakeholders because while the sugar cane farmers associations produced much better quality cane, harvested in a much better manner, BSI milled in a much more efficient way in other words they were able to get much more sugar out of much less sugar cane so we hope that this continue especially for these next five, six days.”

The reality however, is that while the crop is being extended, there will still be stand over cane. For their part, the BSCFA was hoping to mill at least eighty percent of its total production but officials say that it this point it is difficult to give an exact figure as to how much cane is being left in the fields. BSI’s Belizario Carballo says this is because there is no accurate database in place on sugar cane production.

Belizario Carballo

“It is really for that reason that the industry is working really arduously to putting in place a data base of cane production which we call the SIMIS that hopefully for the next crop we will have in place and will be able to give us more accurate information as to the acreage of land that is out there in cane cultivation and also the production that is estimated to be on that acreage and so that will give more accurate information on a farmer by farmer basis of really where the production is and will assist the industry greatly in making the decisions including for example the end of the crop and I think it is high time that this industry has that type of information and we look forward in collaborating with the different stakeholders to put that in place that is one of the priority items the sugar industry control board is currently looking at.”

Along with the extension of the season, the government will also be extending the waiver on licenses to the end of July for all equipment and machinery used in cane harvesting. There is a forecast for rains later this week, and as far as that goes, Vega says that if there is heavy or incessant rain during the next five days, BSI has the leverage to give a forty-eight hour notice to close the crop before the given date.

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