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ASR/BSI loses commercial agreement with Cane Farmers Association; asks for continuation

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Posted: Thursday, August 26, 2021. 2:45 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Coming off a rebound year for sugar after tough times owing to drought and COVID-19, American Sugar Refining/Belize Sugar Industries Ltd has been hit with news of the termination of its commercial agreement with the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA).

In an open letter to cane farmers Mac Maclachlan, ASR/BSI Vice President for International Relations, explains that the BSCFA has left its members out of a contract to supply cane when crop resumes in late November or early December. It is a disruption the industry cannot afford with other challenges it faces and the investment it has already made.

Belize, BSI argues, is one of the few national sugar producers to have increased production in recent years – from 1 million to 1.2 million tonnes of cane on average in the last five years.

BSCFA appears to want to renegotiate the agreement but BSI, as it has previously argued, wants to roll over the agreement for a further seven years, to continue sharing the value of the product with ASR investment.

Maclachlan writes explicitly, “While BSI is always available to discuss issues with the BSCFA in a constructive way, it is not prepared to reopen the key terms of the commercial agreement. To do so will lead to a stalemate and great losses to the industry. BSI remembers well the stand-off that resulted from a similar situation in 2013/14 and 2014/15 when the collective cost of the delay in consecutive crops was approximately BZ$20 million. The industry cannot afford that. It would be irresponsible to embark on a course that would lead to uncertainty and potential grave damage to the industry.”

And so he calls on farmer members of the BSCFA to have their leadership reconsider and provides information to correct “misleading information” allegedly being circulated by BSCFA leaders.

We will seek a response from the Association and from Agriculture Minister Jose Mai in future stories.

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