BSI Says A Prospective Mediator Has Been Identified, But BSCFA Has Yet to Respond
There is no reason why the new sugar cane crop season should begin within the next few weeks without a signed commercial agreement between the Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) and the Belize Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA). At least, this is what BSI’s Country Manager, Mac McLachlan says in regard to the ongoing negotiations between both parties. This process of coming to a mutual agreement on the revision of the price-sharing mechanism has been a topic of contention for several months. There have been accusations of foot-dragging in the mediation process. The BSCFA claims that the BSI has been frustrating the process by putting their conditions on the table and not listening to their demands. However, McLachlan says they have identified a suitable mediator, but the BSCFA has not responded.
Mac McLachlan, Country Manager, BSI: “Nobody wants to have interruptions to the next crop least of all the mill and least of all the cane farmers. The prices are pretty good right now and it would be a travesty if we ended up in another illegal blockade as we did last December. When it comes to mediation, I mean all I can tell you is that there is a name around and we’ve agreed it and we’ve been waiting for several days now for the BSCFA’s response I’m not sure about foot dragging. I think the mediation could have started by now to be honest with you and you know we welcome it because I think anybody who looks at the facts and figures that underpin what would become a commercial agreement I think would very much see things for what they are and that’s a lot of the investment that we’ve made over the last four or five years is really helping to grow the pie so everybody gets a better bigger of it and I think the cane price for this current last crop is testament to that you know there’s not many people get a 30% pay rise which is the equivalent of What happened.”
Although both parties are private entities, the Government of Belize has expressed its concern about the impasse, realizing that a bloackade of the factor’s entrances can happen again. GOB has indicated that if an agreement is not arrived at, it will step in and broker an interim agreement, which McLachlan says is not necessary if the BSI and BSCFA work together.
Mac McLachlan, Country Manager, BSI: “I think it’s important to understand that this is a private business, private sector business fully owned by the private sector and farmers are private sector as well. You know it’s a well-established commercial principle willing buyer willing seller I mean both sides have to be content with whatever the contract is otherwise they can’t reach an agreement on it I don’t think there’s any reason why we shouldn’t have a long term commercial agreement in place before the beginning of crop if people are reasonable and if people are demonstrating common sense and rational thought I really don’t see why there should be an issue I’m not quite sure why it’s taken so long. I mean we’ve made it clear all along that we as a mill same as farmers have come through a number of difficult years for the sugar industry because we are exposed by about 80% to the global market for sugar so that’s what dictates our revenues, it dictates the cane price in the end so you know as a mill we’ve come off the last five years of consecutive losses so frankly some of the demands that are being placed before us are not credible and I think if we can maybe with the help of a sensible mediator then maybe that the two sides can look at each other’s positions and come to a better outcome.”