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Belize Sugar Cane Farmers get tough on B.S.I.

 

We have been reporting that there is unease in the sugar industry because the Belize Sugar Industries has closed the door on discussions with the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association on revenue sharing in respect of bagasse.  The BSCFA says B.S.I. is making millions of dollars in from the bio-fuel used to generate energy fed to the national grid. They also say, there is an agreement with B.S.I. on revenue sharing and the farmers are asking for ten dollars per ton of sugar cane brought to the mills. The BSCFA has upped the ante saying that it has a mandate from the farmers that unless they sign an agreement that involves bagasse, they will not be delivering any sugar when the next crop season opens on November twenty-fifth.  The situation could deteriorate because farmers are not likely to sit back quietly. The BSCFA told News Five that it is meeting with its board members this Thursday to further review B.S.I.’s position and that a follow up meeting will be held with their attorneys.

 

 Oscar Alonso, C.E.O., Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association:

Oscar Alonso, C.E.O., Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association

“Of course it is a blatant disrespect. You don’t sign an agreement nine-twenty years ago and include a clause which you have no intention of respecting. I am sure the signatories of B.S.I. at that time when they signed that agreement were doing it in good faith—good faith that in the future they will sit down. And now we are having a new set of executives that come in and are trying to interpret that according to their own personal discretion. No! That is intolerable; that is unfair. And as we are simply saying let’s stick to what is provided for in the existing in agreement—let us sit down and negotiate.”

 

Javier Keme, Chairman, Finance Committee, BSCFA

Javier Keme, Chairman, Finance Committee, BSCFA

“How far are we trying to go and risk the loss of the crop; that was the question? The answer would be that it is not only the farmers that will be at risk or will be directly impacted. It is the whole country of Belize. We are the largest foreign exchange earner for the country. Last year, our gross income was over a hundred and forty million—the millions that came. And taking out the portion that the shareholders from ASR take to Florida, all the rest of the millions stay in the country and it is shared with the grocery shops, with the tire place, with the shops and everything—everybody shares a piece of this cake.”

 

This afternoon, the northern caucus of the People’s United Party says it is viewing the stalemate in negotiations between the BSCFA and B.S.I. with serious concern as it could escalate into a major industrial dispute. The Caucus calls on B.S.I. to honor the revenue sharing agreement for bagasse as a by-product. It also states that caucus is aware that contrary to B.S.I.’s claim, cane farmers have invested millions of dollars in the cogeneration industry by way of producing more than three hundred thousand tons of raw materials at a cost surpassing five million dollars.  The Northern Caucus also calls on the Minister of Agriculture and the Government of Belize to ensure that negotiations resume and that farmers be justly and equitably rewarded for their effort and hard work and investment. The release ends by saying that Caucus will remain vigilant in monitoring this issue and in protecting the interests of cane farmers.

 

Source: http://edition.channel5belize.com/archives/92472



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