Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2023. 5:15 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Despite its previous reluctance, the Government of Belize used its muscle to get the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) to agree on a one-year interim agreement in order to start the sugar crop on December 27.
One codicil to that agreement was that Cabinet would hear from both sides on the sticking points in the commercial agreement, which BSCFA terminated in 2020, including an agreement on revenue sharing.
The BSCFA visited Belmopan for that meeting on Tuesday for what Prime Minister John Briceño called “a better in-depth understanding” of the problems in the industry – one he says most of his fellows do not necessarily follow as they do not live in and come from cane country as he does.
The Prime Minister told reporters on Wednesday that “they made some good points on how is it they can leave a fairer agreement that would then seek to ensure they get a fair share. They believe there are certain charges BSI is making that is unjustified or need to be done differently. So, we listened and we asked questions. But, it is not for us to make any kind of decisions.”
The Executive’s next step is to host BSI/ASR’s team for their side, but the Prime Minister issued a warning that legislation alone would not solve this problem: “It is important to point out that we cannot legislate away this issue between these two organizations because both groups are private entities. If we are to legislate in favor for the farmers, BSI is going to take us to court. If we were to do differently, the cane farmers are going to take us to court. So, all we can do is try to be an honest broker, try to find how we can compromise on both sides and how it is that we can find a more fair and transparent agreement that would benefit both sides. As I tell everybody, we cannot have a sugar industry without the cane farmers and we cannot have a sugar industry without the factory.”
Between 1.15 and 1.3 million tonnes of cane are expected to be delivered to the mill at Tower Hill up to the end of May, or early June.
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