Agriculture Minister Provides Update on Sugar Impasse
The longstanding battle between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and the BSI/ASR continues. Both parties have opted for going down the route of having an impartial mediator negotiate how the Net Stripped Value of Sugar and Molasses is calculated. The Association believes that the current formula lacks transparency and leaves them at a loss. In a press conference earlier this week, the BSCFA explains that a shift from 70-30 split to 60-40 split of all sugar proceeds will resolve much of the challenges that the association faces. Minister of Agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai, told the media today that as the start of the new crop season swiftly approaches, Cabinet is concerned that a deal has not been made yet. Minister Mai added that he has been given directives from Cabinet to address this issue which could result in millions of dollars in losses.
Jose Abelardo Mia, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “Yesterday in Cabinet the members of Cabinet were very concerned that this is going for a very long time and they’ve given certain directives that I must do and we’re working on that at this time. The volumes of correspondences between BSCFA and ASR is a lot. I want to say this cautiously but I believe that we are progressing in this week slowly. At least I’ve seen that ASR has moved from a position of saying we don’t need mediation to let me rethink about mediation to now okay let’s go to mediation. So we’re moving. At this point we’re at that little junction, that little point where we’re saying let us determine who will be the mediators and when we have the list of mediators we will select who the mediators are. So we’re at that point right now and my hope is that we will have a commercial agreement before the start of the next crop. Farmers believe that BSI has played a delay tactic first waiting out, they believe hoping that farmers would have left the association and go to other associations is what farmers believe. They are convinced that because of the influence of BSI holding back on the fair trade monies that farmers would have further left, that is not what happened and so now the crop is to start in the first week of December and the BSCFA is still there and still fighting their ground. We have to respect the resilience of the cane farmers but must also bear in mind that ASR is a business company to make money and nothing is wrong with that once it is done fairly, the farmers are treated fairly and so is ASR.”