Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2021. 2:18 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: For what may be the first time ever, the leaders of the sugar industry have been told they can’t go to work.
Yesterday, Monday, instead of an official ceremony at Tower Hill, the leadership of Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) was addressing the press virtually, trying to explain why the latest decision by the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) hurts everyone in the long run.
Vice-President of International Relations for BSI/ASR Mac Maclachlan asserted, “There is no need in the law for the SICB to rubber-stamp the decisions. It’s simply to publish that in the Gazette, and I think it’s fair to say that action has really brought to the forefront a major concern that we and other industry stakeholders share, which is about the level of control and authority that’s placed in a government-controlled institution. All the farmers who want to deliver their cane have reached – that’s the vast majority – and the miller who wants to receive the cane are impeded from doing so. The reason that we wanted to start now is that, as we all know, when we have a significant amount of cane to mill, we want to get through that as quickly as we can, and certainly, before the weather turns, usually around the end of July. So, the idea to get moving now is really to help everyone, including the farmers. I think there’s a real problem here because there’s definitely going to be an economic disadvantage. So, I think that it would be very wise for SICB to think about its liability in that state.”
Traditionally, farmers were informed of the SICB notice via radio.
And while none of BSI/ASR, the other sugar cane farmers’ associations, or Government has openly blamed the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) directly or indirectly for the delay, it is clear that their decision to renegotiate a commercial agreement at this time – one which they hope brings them greater benefits – is risky at best and industry-changing at worst.
And BSI/ASR’s Maclachlan tends more to the latter: “It has become clear to us that it was stated to us quite clearly that what BSCFA wants is more money from the Mill. And, at a time when the mill is investing in value-added products, in a Port Facility in Big Creek that is going to reduce the cost of freight. The farmers will share that advantage. There is nothing to give. And, that is why it is very difficult for us to consider anything like an interim agreement. There will be no point that will be simply pushing this whole issue down the track and ruin another crop next year. Their objective is not about moving away from Net Strip Value and sharing of cost, but really about transferring value or getting paid more for cane from BSI to BSCFA, which we have stated from the very beginning, is not an option for us. We were certainly prepared to look at a simplified structure for paying cane, where the mill is no worse off. But if we go down a tract where they are looking to significantly transfer value, which is something we just cannot do.”
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