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Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association readies for sugar crop, pushes for longer negotiating period for Commercial Agreement

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Posted: Friday, December 24, 2021. 6:29 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) has gotten what it wanted for Christmas – an official start to the sugar crop and an interim agreement to be signed with Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR).

But there is still one loose end according to the BSCFA, who sent out a press release this afternoon advising its members to obey the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) SICB directive by commencing deliveries of clean and mature cane to the mill as of Monday, December 27, and discourages members from withholding their cane or taking action to disrupt the schedule.

It was unanimously agreed at the meeting of the SICB on Thursday that the season start on December 27 over the BSCFA representative’s resolution that they wait until BSCFA and BSI/ASR sign an interim agreement or an addendum to extend the current agreement up to August 1, 2022 to give time for further negotiation. It was indicated that it was the Prime Minister who effectively ordered that the season start on December 27.

Further, says the BSCFA, the Prime Minister wrote it and BSI/ASR proposing consideration for the signing of the interim agreement based on the terms and conditions of the current commercial agreement for the 2021/2022 crop; that negotiations begin in January and conclude by the end of April; that the interim agreement expires on April 30 if no agreement is reached, and that if the interim agreement expires, only members of Associations and registered cane farmers who have signed commercial agreements with BSI/ASR continue to deliver cane. (A typical season lasts from December to mid-June or early July).

The BSCFA indicates and has written the Prime Minister to say so, that it is prepared to sign an interim agreement if a provision to automatically extend the expiration to August 1 is included if circumstances require it. To do otherwise, the BSCFA says, would put its more than 3,000 members at a great disadvantage concerning delivery.

Furthermore, says the BSCFA, it has been pushing for such an interim agreement since December 13, which BSI/ASR has flatly rejected each time.

While it is asking for this amendment the negotiations are ongoing and members will be consulted and updated as it pursues terms and conditions beneficial to members.

“The BSCFA urges its members to remember that negotiations last for a short time, compared to how long the implications and benefits of any agreement will apply. Stay firm during this time and keep united to enable a fair commercial agreement to be negotiated and signed. Just as it has done in the past, the BSCFA will once again protect the best interests of our members during negotiations with BSI/ASR,” the statement concludes.

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