Posted: Tuesday, January 7, 2020. 9:20 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes : After a two and a half-hour meeting this afternoon in Orange Walk Town, American Sugar Refining/Belize Sugar Industries Limited (ASR/BSI) and the three major cane farmers’ associations have agreed on a start date of January 15, 2020, for this year’s crop season.
It comes more than a month and a half from the traditional start of the crop in early December, but if the cañeros had their way, it would have been even sooner, according to BSI Cane Farmer Relations Manager, Olivia Avilez.
The leading association, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA), had wanted a date of January 13, but BSI put forward the January 15 date based on its estimation of how much time was needed to conduct final maintenance and preparations to start up the mill at Tower Hill, which in fact is already underway.
Following a prayer service and official ceremony, the trucks will start to roll in approximately one million tonnes of cane from fields in Corozal and Orange Walk – this year’s reported estimate of cane in the fields.
Avilez estimates that with the agreed grinding rate, they should get through the season by the end of May or early June, in time to meet the start of the rainy season.
But the after-effects of the 2019 drought have already kicked in. Fields planted in December and January of 2018 and blighted by the drought are not likely recoverable and Avilez says that as with BSI’s own fields that are similarly affected, farmers will have to cut down those canes and do the “ratoon” maintenance – fertilizing, adding herbicides and pesticides and so on – to have those ready for later this year. The focus will be on those canes maturing at this moment and so on through the season.
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