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Sugar season bittersweet, says BSCFA: Prices low, factory less efficient

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Posted: Tuesday, July 30, 2019. 7:30 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Still the largest of the three cane farmers’ associations and most powerful in terms of bargaining, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association’s (BSCFA) summary of the just concluded crop season as “bittersweet” and its pointed criticisms of the management of Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) are sure to send shock-waves through the north.

It opened its season-ending press release by congratulating farmers and their associates for a “good” production season. But it contends that it could have been even better but for a few mistakes credited to Tower Hill.

The price to farmers, as per the Fifth Cane Price Estimate received on the 26th of July 2019, remain at a record low of BZ$45.80.

The BSCFA’s revised figures for the 214-day crop ending on July 14 were 1,296,812 long tons of cane delivered and 154,172 tons of sugar, the latter a record, with a tons cane to tons sugar (TC/TS) ratio of 8.41. Final figures for sugar produced for the crop will vary as the factory reported having to do some re-melting of raw sugar to complete the production of the Plantation White Sugar for local consumption in the domestic market, which is estimated to conclude in the third week of August 2019.

While 94% of the production estimate was delivered, the BSCFA registered its concern that despite encouragement to replant and change agricultural practices, there was still cane left standing in the fields which will now be lost.

The BSCFA says that, “with the prices per ton of cane being so low, farmers did their best to deliver all their cane, however there were many challenges to overcome in order to deliver their sugar cane to the factory.”

The mills ground more slowly than the contracted amount – 7 thousand tons in 24 hours, or 291.67 tons per hour. The figure given for grinding rate is 6,157 tons per day, more than 800 tons less and an average of 256.54 tons per hour. Half the difference, the BSCFA says, would have added 90 thousand tons more to the total and kept farmers from having to queue up due to unplanned stoppages and factory downtime, causing loss of quality. The BSCFA estimates crop could have been ended almost a month earlier than scheduled with more cane delivered.

With a near four-thousand-ton drop in production of direct consumption sugar, the caneros feel this does not affect the grinding rate as much. Total DC sugars produced per year since 2016 are as follows: 28,048 tons (2016), 29,528 tons (2017), 33,205 tons (2018) and to date 2019 total DCs produced are 29,556 tons.

The cane farmers say they want an assurance of expansion of the main production area of the factory and more grinding to improve efficiency. Regular farmers are producing, but the BSCFA feels they are discouraged by the issues with the factory. It wants prices to reflect the farmers’ hard work.

Last year, the BSCFA had to be persuaded not to opt out of the commercial agreement over similar concerns.

 

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