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For the past week we have been reporting on the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association suspension from Fairtrade which came after an audit was conducted by FLOCERT and turned up a major non- compliance in the association. The problem stemmed after Former BSCFA member Eloy Escalante was flagged for what is referred to as "phantom farming”. He no longer produces cane, and according to reports, in an interview with Fair Trade Auditors, he admitted that he hasn't been doing so for 3 years. Instead, he entered into a business arrangement with Minister Edmond Castro, who is in the sugar cane business. Under the arrangement, Castro's family could deliver cane to the factory under Escalante’s license.

As the 2016/207 Sugar Cane crop season came to a start stake holders in the industry collaborated to set up an accounting system called, SIMIS, or Sugar Industry Management Information System, which they believe will greatly assist in correcting the situation of ‘Phantom farmers’.

Screen_Shot_2016-12-06_at_8.03.45_PMJessamyn Ramos, Coordinator – SIMIS

“We have now gathered information from sugar cane parcels under production which you can see in this map here; we have all the acreages, all the parcels that are under production so what we are doing this year is that we want to monitor the production so that we can get the exact yield of each parcel and we have provided harvesting group leaders with a map and the map includes each parcel that they harvest throughout the crop, the parcel number which is a unique number and the acreage, accompanied with these maps we have provided them with some booklets that has the parcel number in a bar code format so that the farmers fill out these  information and deliver it upon every truck that arrives so the farmers will locate the parcel find the corresponding ticket number or bar code number and deliver it here at the ticket booth, they will get a pass from here to go over to the scale now at the scale what is being captured is the weight, the process is that once we have captured every truck that is being delivered coming from all these parcels at the end of the crop we could tell where the cane came from, what is the total production for each parcel and we could calculate based on the acreage, calculate the tons per acre which is the yield so we are planning to use that piece of information, the sugar cane production committee does an exercise every year after the crop to verify all the cane that was left and we are hoping that this system the SIMIS will be used as the tool to assist the Sugar Cane Production Committee to identify all those parcels that were not harvested, reason why it was not harvested and give it an estimated yield.”

Apart from accountability, it has a direct benefit to farmers, because they are able to accurately take stock of how much cane they have in their fields which will help to better track who delivers cane, where the cane comes from and how much is being delivered.

Jessamyn Ramos, Coordinator – SIMIS

“This tool serves for them as a record keeping tool where they can now start to track the exact acreage that they are producing sugar cane, what variety they are producing n it, what is the soil type they are producing it with and at the end with the yield they can calculate which are the parcels that are not yielding well for them and do better decisions to make more inform decision in terms of if they would want to replant the field, if a particular variety is not suitable for that soil, sugar industry stakeholders see the bigger picture which is the benefit in terms of seeing for example what type of sugar cane varieties do we have out there and or now I can tell that our first initial survey have showed us that we have one particular variety with over 67% which is not too healthy for the industry but what we would now want to do with this program is to monitor the yield and to know where are those varieties that are not producing as expected.  In the past months we have been trying to do some awareness at farmer level, we have done some sessions at their different locations and most of the farmers are welcoming the program in terms of them seeing the benefit from their end and so we went ahead an prepared the map for all the farmers and over the weekend we were distributing them training them on how to fill out the paper how to look for their parcels and even for two weeks into the crop SIRDI will be providing assistance to the farmers so that they can get accustom to it, we know that it is something knew and like with anything new it will take us time but we are hoping that by the end of this crop all farmers are well acquainted with the system and of course information is powerful as much as we can provide to them then they could start seeing the benefits of the system.”

The system is expected to be implemented with all famers at the end of this year’s crop season.

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