CastroAs the 2016/2017 crop season came to an official start today, the largest cane farmer’s association, BSCFA, remains under suspension from fair-trade. The problem, as we had previously reported, lies in the fact that registered cane farmer Eloy Escalante and Minister of Transport and NEMO Edmund Castro came under an agreement three years ago whereby Castro, who is not a registered cane farmer, would deliver cane to the factory under Escalante’s license, automatically making Castro a phantom cane farmer.


CTV3 news was the first to speak on the issue with Minister of Agriculture, Godwin Hulse last week during the inauguration of the BAHA building at the northern border. Hulse, however, did not lay blame on Minister Castro, instead he came to his defense.


And today when we spoke to Carlos Itza, the Chairman of the SCPC, which is the regulatory body of the industry, he told us that while the SCPC has the administrative power to deal with the situation there is not much than can be done.

 

Carlos Itza- Chairman- SCPC


“The SCPC has the administrative tool to deal with the situation but then when it comes to penalizing in terms of penalty or you would say a fine we don’t have that type of practice I would say even though if the law give us that authority it can create problems in the cane farming community but we have the administrative tools to deal with it.”

 

Reporter


“With a situation like that, how will that be dealt with through?”


Carlos Itza- Chairman- SCPC


“Well currently you have heard that there is the case of Honorable Castro with Eloy Escalante and this is one of the cases that was highlighted in the Fair Trade audit that was conducted so the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers they have requested the SCPC to eliminate Eloy Escalante from the farmer’s registry but as far as you might be aware is that we wanted to inform that it is not so an easy process because I understand the BSCFA have expelled him brim the Association but then the law also provides for Eloy to associate himself with any of the other Association and even to be an individual farmer of course we are not pushing for him to be an individual farmer we would want him to integrate any of the farming community but at the same time it is if we apply the principle that whatever we apply to Eloy will also affect other farmers that are unknown in the Association and also in the registry.”


At the moment the BSCFA is at the losing end because if Fairtrade does not lift the suspension the association will lose millions of dollars. Escalante on the other hand has been expelled from the BSFA. But what about Minister Castro? Well, he walks away unscathed as he will be allowed to deliver his cane under Eloy Escalante’s license for this crop season.


Carlos Itza- Chairman- SCPC


“The SCPC cannot solve the Eloy Escalante partially it has to be done in a comprehensive manner meaning that whatever we apply to Eloy will affect other farmers that are even unknown at this stage, until we have complete documentation as to how we can solve the issue the registry has been already released that means the registry for 2016/2017 has been released and any alteration to that registry needs to have proper documentation or even legal issues might be involved so for what I can state is that until there is a submission from BSCFA that there is something wrong and then the sugar act permits that we expel somebody from the registry, until that happens we will still have to permit Eloy to function as found in the registry.”


According to Itza, the SCPC is currently working on procedures that will be implemented and must be adhered to eliminate ‘Phantom Farmers’ as there are many other cases similar to the one involving Escalante and Minister Castro.

 

Carlos Itza- Chairman- SCPC


“Eloy Escalante as far as I am concern is the only one highlighted in the audit but from what we are telling you is that we might have some indications that there is more people in similar situations than Eloy, how much are I think we might have to do a comprehensive review of the system.  One of the things that we are currently putting is that we are putting guidelines that are very clear what things you can do what things you cannot do and these guidelines of course has to be known by all cane farmers in the area because the worst case scenario would be trying to do a decision and then many people are not aware what is the procedure.”

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