Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2022. 8:41 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai indicated this evening that “in principle,” the Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) and Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) have agreed to continue last year’s “interim agreement” in order for the 2022-2023 cane season to begin next week, December 27.
At this hour, Mai explained, the two sides are sorting out when exactly the new agreement will expire, as the interim agreement was signed somewhere within the chaos of the start of last year’s season in December 2021 and early January 2022. But otherwise, he told us, it is his “great expectation” that the crop will finally get underway by order of the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB), which proposed the December 27 date pending an agreement between the contending parties.
Earlier, Mai conceded to reports that mediation led by attorney Julie-Ann Ellis-Bradley “failed” without specifying why – those talks are by dint of the process to remain secret. The government according to Prime Minister John Briceño was to receive a formal report by the end of this week. But Mai indicated that the SICB would not risk starting the season without the BSCFA onside as to do so would invite the “chaos” seen at the start of last season.
BSI this week had proposed a two-year agreement to allow for more time to negotiate, but the Government, intervening where it had previously refrained from doing so, felt that one year was sufficient and both parties had agreed to that.
The Prime Minister hinted that costs for manufacturing direct consumption sugar to be calculated in the net stripped value (NSV) could be at the root of the issue, but he reiterated that the two sides had to find common ground for the benefit of an industry that both he and Mai were raised in.
The P.M. also told reporters that the BSCFA will be invited to address Cabinet on the issue, with BSI also present.
We have sought further details from BSI on their statement this week as well as from the BSCFA.
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