Posted: Friday, March 17, 2023. 8:51 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Following meetings with both sides this week, Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa is warming to his task, both urgent and seemingly impossible: getting the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) to a commercial agreement.
The chairman of the ministerial sub-committee on sugar said he met first with the BSCFA in Belmopan, followed by BSI/ASR at Tower Hill on Wednesday.
“…we had a four-hour meeting over at our office, a very productive, very fruitful meeting, essentially doing just that, to express to the cane farmers what our position is, what our role is in this and hearing what their expectations are in terms of moving forward to resolve the dispute. There are some short-term goals that we want to clear up, that we want to achieve, and then of course there’s the long-term objective of arriving at a commercial agreement,” Musa explained to reporters.
He added that “… while it is that this age-old dispute seems like something that cannot be resolved if you ask anybody, it’s just something that goes on every time the commercial agreement comes to an end, we believe that our involvement from a ministerial level is not just to be a sort of referee for this very important industry which affects the livelihood of a substantial portion of the north, is not just to be referees but also to lend a guiding hand and to look at it from different perspectives to see if there are other solutions that we can find, like I said, to this age-old dispute.”
Musa is joined by Agriculture Minister Jose Mai and Minister of State Oscar Mira who is a former soldier and works in the Ministry of Border Security and National Defense. So he was quizzed as to what he really knows about the industry. He noted that he has already learned a lot and has much more to learn, but while he may not know much about sugar, he does know the law, which he pointed out in this context is more important: “I think it has more to do with giving it a fresh pair of eyes and so I am an attorney at law and so I am familiar with how legislation is drafting, how commercial agreements are drafted, and so any attorney as you know the last person to mediate in something like this was Mrs Julie-Ann Ellis Bradley, she has no knowledge the sugar industry either … I think that the subcommittee having had the opportunity to meet with both entities is getting a very good grasp of the situation and so we can then give a more informed opinion on these things moving forward.”
The Sub-Committee is working concurrently with the planned Commission of Inquiry into the Sugar Industry, which will take a wider view of the industry’s ills and plans. The members of that Committee have yet to be appointed.
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