Screen_Shot_2016-01-06_at_7.52.45_PMAt the moment if we take a look at all the major industries in Belize we can safely say that the only one not on life support but still suffering from a bad cold is the Sugar Industry. Recently cane farmers saw a drastic reduction in the estimated price of the first payment and in 2017 when the price of sugar reduces even more in the preferential market the industry is not expected to be as sweet as other years.


With tough times ahead stakeholders of the industry must prepare to compete in the European Market where Belize’s Sugar is sold and this is where the Strategic Development Plan comes in. In a nutshell the Strategic Development Plan seeks to improve the viability of the Sugar Industry that contributes to the economic and social stability of the North.

In order for the STP to be implemented the strategic issues confronting the industry must be identified and today stakeholders met to do just that. Among the discussion was the deteriorating prices of sugar.


Mac MacLachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR


“We’ve come to a point now where we are discussing a logical framework, if our goal at the end of the day is to have a sustainable sugar industry that is going to help solidify the economy of the north of Belize and bring improved livelihoods to all of the people involved in that industry, how do we get there? What is the logical process we need to take in order to get there? We are looking at a phased process and this is a process that will take a number of years to achieve and at the moment we are just looking at those phases and we are discussing what is achievable within those phases a lot of this and the bottom line is about reducing the production cost of sugar in Belize because at the moment the production cost is too high to be able to compete effectively in the global market so we need to look at all the aspects of that; be that mill efficiency, be that efficiency of production sugar cane, the efficiency of delivering that sugar cane to the factory, the efficiency of how the sugar once manufactured gets to the export market all of these factors but can’t do this at once, so we are looking in a phase way on how to do that we are looking at a three basic phases; the first is to do what we can now in the basis of where we are now low capacity with matched with very efficient cane production to reduce the cane production cost of sugar, there are certain things we can do in that area already, second phase is about long term on how to optimize.”


According to Mac MacLachlan, Vice President of International Relations for ASR, when it comes to reducing the cost of production, a number of areas must be looked at.


Mac MacLachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR


“We as a company already invested 40 million Belize dollars in the mill to improve its performance, to improve its subtraction rates of sugar and also to increase the amount sugar that we can make and the amount of cane that we can put through the factory.  The farmers similarly I think have put an effort into improve the quality of the cane although I am not saying this year we had an early start to the crop because we want to receive as much cane as we can this year not help by the fact that is been quite wet and that is really have an impact on grinding rates on how much sugar we can produce but what we looking at is really how sugar cane farmers can improve their own livelihoods by reducing the cost on them by producing sugar cane, there a number of factors there and some of it is to do the delivery system that we have in place at the moment, we need to look at it at a different ways and types of the delivery system that enables us to get the right cane into the factory at the right time and to ensure that it is a fair system that is equitable and that everybody is in agreement with and so that is one issue and another one is the actual cost of harvesting and delivery of that cane and many other more efficient industries in the world where they looked to make and look toward reducing the cost of actually cutting and delivering cane, we need to think about a plan that is not going to happen overnight but it is a plan on how we move in that general direction.”


Carmeltia Perez – Reporter CTV3


“Would we say that at the moment the current harvesting and delivery system that is in place is affecting the industry because we see that due to the weather there are some cane fields that are filled with mud and that is really difficult for cane farmers to take out that product.”


Mac MacLachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR


While there has been an increase in production, there is just so much cane the mill can grind. This is cause for concern for farmers who adhered to BSI/ASR’s call to increase productivity. And while reducing the cost of production would bring the expansion of the mill a bit closer it would still not be a done deal as there are other areas that need to be considered."


Mac MacLachlan, Vice President, International Relations, ASR


“Any business need to have the opportunity to return on the investment that it makes so it is not only about the quality of cane coming in and the quantity of cane coming in but it is also it has to do with how that return on any major investment like this is going to come about and we need a discussion with the government about those issues, it is very important that collectively as an industry we move at the same pace and that we move forward at the same time and we need to look as any business with a major investment that we need to consider here if it make sense or not.”


Screen_Shot_2016-01-06_at_7.52.55_PMAt the end of the day though, all the gathering of information becomes cheap talk if all stakeholders of the industry are not on the same page which is the only way the Strategic Development Plan will work.


Jose Novelo- Chairman Sugar Cane Production Committee


“Very, very important in this thing is that ownership has to be bestowed on all the stakeholders because it will take all the stakeholders to eventually agree on how we move forward, so the farmers for instance who produce cane would have to make certain commitments, the factory that manufactures has to make certain commitments and of course government who provides the enabling environment for this to happen will also have to make certain commitments.”

 

We understand the Strategic Development Plan Steering Committee will meet tomorrow to follow up on today’s

discussion.

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