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Sugar partners must resolve differences, says P.M.

Dean Barrow

Bagasse

Bagasse

Wednesday, July 30, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: Cane farmers in the North agreed to have the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) step in to help resolve their dispute over the commercial agreement with Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) and its partner American Sugar Refining (ASR).

BSI says it cannot afford more than 51 cents per ton of fiber drawn from the cane stalk, while the farmers are claiming up to $10, their valuation of all remaining product from the cane stalk.

The farmers want an independent expert to assess the issue, but ASR has balked.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

Today, following a meeting with them, Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained why.

ASR has told the Prime Minister that it believes industry consensus is needed to counteract the planned cut in prices by the European Union (EU), the chief importer of Belizean sugar, and thus cannot afford to look disunited.

And so, the Government is for now staying on the sidelines.

The next crop season must not start, the P.M. said, without a valid commercial agreement including payment for bagasse.

The two sides must agree on the way forward and the Government would step in where it felt it was needed.

Asked if the Government would be forced to intervene if the two sides cannot reach agreement, the Prime Minister maintained that for now, they had done all they could do, and the two sides have to be mature to settle their differences.

The Government is not “all-powerful” in matters such as these, Barrow said, and simply cannot impose a solution on the two sides, nor can it introduce legislation as that would risk a pull-out by ASR.

The farmers have set a deadline of October 15 to conclude negotiations.

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