Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2021. 5:35 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A stark warning was sent to members of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) last Thursday that for their own good, they should not be tempted by the current ferment in the sugar industry to sign individual contracts with Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR).
Since a Supreme Court ruling legitimizing the breakup of the BSCFA monopoly in 2017, three other associations have been formed representing cane farmer interests: the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association (CSCPA); the Northern Sugar Cane Growers Association (NSCGA); and the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association (PSCPA). The CSCPA and PSCPA were recently accused of not having proper elections and reporting of their affairs to members this year, charges they have denied on the basis of COVID-19 and scheduling.
BSI/ASR for its part has publicly offered to individual farmers to sign up with them after the Commercial Agreement with the BSCFA ends in January 2022.
But Alfredo Ortega, a long-time spokesperson for the BSCFA and chair of its Orange Walk Division, said sternly that BSI/ASR cannot be trusted to act in the interest of the individual farmer.
The BSCFA still holds the largest membership and acts in the interest of all farmers and so what benefits they obtain in the new Commercial Agreement, whenever it is settled, would accrue to all farmers.
Members of the BSCFA executive added that if farmers were to walk away from the BSCFA, they would be giving up Fairtrade premiums earned from sugar sales, a needed boost in these tough times, and they would have little security in the potential BSI agreements.
But before it gets to that, both sides are hoping to resolve their impasse.
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