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2021-22 sugar cane crop delayed but set to begin on Monday, December 27

Posted: Sunday, December 26, 2021. 11:39 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: After one of the more acrimonious buildups in recent memory, the 2021-2022 sugar cane season is set to begin in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.

An estimated 1.35 million tons of cane is available to be milled, but there remain questions about whether all of it will come in and whether all of it will be processed.

The season opens amid the shadows of the soon-to-expire commercial agreement between Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), the latter of which effectively controls 50 percent of crop production.

The BSCFA is demanding what it calls a fairer share of the pie of sugar revenues – a 60-40 split of all gross revenue from sugar and molasses sales by BSI/ASR and a removal of additional charges for those sales. BSI/ASR has counter-proposed a limit to sales of plantation white sugar and direct consumption sugars in the United States and CARICOM but not to raw sugar sales in the European Union (EU) and elsewhere.

There are other points of contention, such as the length of a commercial agreement, a greater payment for bagasse used to make electricity at the co-generation plant, and others.

At the coercion of Government the two sides have agreed to sign an interim agreement based on the current commercial agreement which expires on January 19; however, BSCFA wants a fail-safe if negotiations are not concluded before April 30, which would limit its members in delivering cane.

There is tension between BSI/ASR and the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB), whose chairman, Marcos Osorio, puts part of the blame on BSI/ASR for causing the disruption in the industry, including allegedly openly intimidating BSCFA members into walking away to other associations or to sign individual contracts. BSCFA has in turn been accused of threatening disruption of its own.

Three other associations have not been spared, with an amendment to effectively force two of them to hold elections of officers and provide updates to members defeated in the Senate, amid concerns that the Minister of Agriculture would have too much power to settle disputes within the industry if the SICB cannot do so.

And there is the always present threat of disruption to the crop by rain or other natural devastation.


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