Over the weekend, the Belize Sugar Cane Famers Association held its annual general meeting to discuss the Fair Trade Premium and proposed budget for the new fiscal year. With the majority of its members present for the annual encounter, the managing authorities took the opportunity to speak about the recent suspension of the association from Fair Trade. The suspension came about as a result of an audit which exposed three areas of non-compliance due to the wrongful delivery of sugar cane to the factory.

While the owner of the cane field had been inactive in the delivery of cane for approximately three years, a high-ranking UDP Minister had taken it upon himself to harvest and deliver cane under the said farmer’s name without following proper protocols in terms of the transferral of land to another name. At yesterday’s meeting farmers agreed on corrective measures involving the elimination of farmer Eloy Escalante from the association.

Screen_Shot_2016-11-28_at_6.44.47_PMAlfredo Ortega - Chairman, BSCFA Orange Walk Branch

“We were suspended and a letter came to us on Tuesday where FLOCERT suspended the Association because of those findings of none compliance under the, when the Audit was done, and this came through a farmer that was interviewed and he personally said that he for the past three years was not delivering cane in his name and he was not planting and that it was another person delivering on his name and based on that he gave personally the information then when they made their analysis in regards to the audit report then they took it into account and that is why they suspended the Association. The situation arises with Mr. Eloy Escalante being the farmer that has the license but as he was no longer interested then he got into an agreement with Minister Castro and in which he was delivering the cane using that name but it was an agreement that they had but they were trying to transfer, Mr. Castro was seeking to transfer the license in his name but the ASCPC was not going through it because for the past three years they were not accepting new farmers unless it was a farmer that had died and his son or his wife was taking over then in that case yes it would be a new farmer but in this regard Mr. Eloy is still living and based on the transaction that they had there was no transfer in the name of Mr. Castro and that is why we end up in this situation in which well today it has been presented to the farmers and the farmers had already voted that he be excluded from the BSCFA list.”

The BSCFA is of the belief that there is a plot to break up the association under the suspension, but it won’t be that easy says chairman of the BSCFA Orange Walk Branch, Alfredo Ortega, who is calling on all cane farmers to stand in unison to overcome future challenges.

Alfredo Ortega - Chairman, BSCFA Orange Walk Branch

“I would like to call the attention to the farmers to let us be united and we need to be united because things are happening and more challenges are ahead of us and we don’t know with what other things they might come that might create harm to us so we need to be united to be together to move forward and to overcome any challenges that we can meet in our way forward in the industry.”

CTV3 News understands that a letter will be sent to the Sugar Cane Production Committee informing them of Escalante’s expulsion from the BSCFA.

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