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BSI/ASR writes to cane farmers discouraging Santander switch

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Posted: Friday, May 14, 2021. 9:38 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Vice-president for International Relations at Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining Mac Maclachlan has told cane farmers in an open letter today that it may not be worth it to take standing cane to Santander Sugar Factory in Cayo District.

“Farmers who take cane to Santander will sustain very heavy haulage costs, and should be mindful of legal implications of doing so under the commercial agreements signed on their behalf by their respective associations with BSI, and implications for future contracting with BSI and the loss of Fairtrade premiums on cane not delivered to a Fairtrade certified mill,” Maclachlan writes.

BSI, says Maclachlan, has yet to receive a response from the Sugar Cane Production Committee (SCPC) on a verification of the remaining cane area to be harvested involving all stakeholders to enable the mill and farmers to make the best and least economically damaging decisions.

While farmers continue to be recruited to deliver to Santander, the production has improved at Tower Hill in recent weeks, with a high of 49 thousand metric tons of cane ground last week.

From its own data, BSI/ASR estimates that 1.19 million metric tons of cane were available, down from 1.3 million estimated at the start of the season in December and in line with SIRDI’s production estimate of between 1.143 and 1.206 million metric tons of sugar cane. Updated data will be available in the next two weeks.

Maclachlan claims that, “Over 1,100 cane farmers have now delivered over 100% of their quota while 1,483 farmers have delivered zero cane, yet others who have completed their harvest still have available quota. It is the job of the SCPC to allocate these quotas on the basis of verifications that the cane available matches the quota. BSI believes that it is now evident this job has not been done properly nor fairly. As a result, farmers stand to lose out through no fault of their own. BSI believes that it would be appropriate for the SCPC to now undertake a quota reallocation to ensure those farmers with cane can deliver their cane, under their own name and in a well-planned and managed delivery schedule to the end of crop. This would be far more beneficial to farmers than investing efforts in diverting cane over 100 miles away to another mill.”

BSI has milled an average of 1.28 million metric tons of cane over the last five crops (excluding the 2020 drought affected crop). There is no reason we can foresee for BSI not grinding all cane available for this crop. This assessment is also based on the weather forecast influenced by the impact of the La Niňa phenomena which is providing an estimation of between 10 – 15% reduction in normal rainfall patterns during June and July, and the improved quality in cane and milling rate. That said, no one can predict the unpredictable, major weather events etc.

Maclachlan concludes, “Our doors are always open to respond to any questions you have and to jointly plan and execute a good 2021 crop. BSI’s mission remains to have an efficient and profitable business for all industry stakeholders, adding value to cane farmers through investments and meeting our environmental and social obligations as a good community citizen.”

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