The 2016-2017 sugar crop which closed at the ending of June has had mixed results and reviews. Yes sugar production increased but the amount of cane milled was below the estimated target. Yes more cane farmers were exposed to mechanized harvesting, but few can actually afford it. The industry, now at a crossroads with the end of preferential access to the EU market and global market conditions shifting daily, is being closely examined by all stakeholders. Today the CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture Jose Alpuche attended a sugar industry stakeholders meeting and gave us his review of the past crop season.
CEO Jose Alpuche - Ministry of Agriculture
“There’s still quite of work to be done in the Industry, I think we have to applaud what’s been done by the farmers and by the Mill as you’ve ween we’ve produced the highest quantity of sugar ever, it’s a record year, the conversion was quite good although the grinding was not as good as its been in the past but the fat of the matter is that we have an ever increasing efficiencies of the sector as a whole, am there is room for improvement, we need to look at the question of quality again and there are some more issues that will come up we need to clear up the status of many of the farmers, you saw the problem at the start of the crop, we need to conduct a cane census and am happy that the Associations agrees to that and they will now sit with the leaders of the regulatory bodies to finalize the planning of the census.”
One bad piece of news shared today is that the Government is being pressured by the international financial institutions to bring to an end its fuel subsidy provided to the over 6,000 cane farmers in northern Belize. While fuel prices are at sky-rocketing levels, cane farmers get a small reprieve by not paying the painful fuel tax that the rest of us pay. Still, fuel prices are climbing in Belize and farmers have had to pay more today than they did years ago. But according to CEO Alpuche, the Government will consider whether to continue providing the subsidy.
“Will the Ministry look at ways in providing support to the cane farmers?”
Jose Alpuche, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture
“We really don’t have the resources to provide support for farmers and I must be very clear about that, they do get a Fair Trade Premium that they supposed to assist then and suppose to invest in bettering the production but as it relates to government I know for a fact that government is coming up under tremendous pressure by the IFI’s to end the subsidies that they provide for sugar, and that is one of the only industry that obtains those level of subsidies and government coming under increasing pressure to end those.”