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Belize Sugar Industries distances self from Fairtrade fuss with Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association

Posted: Friday, April 21, 2023. 9:31 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) has a new point of grievance with Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR), accusing them of failing to pay the Association Fairtrade premiums for sugar sold in 2022 and 2023 crop seasons.

As explained by Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai, “From the information we’ve been gathering also and from the discussions, it is confirmed that forty thousand tons of sugar was sold, this is from the 2022 crop, was sold with a Fairtrade premium. BSCFA did not receive any Fairtrade premium for that year. This year, I think that they have sold also a portion of the sugar with the Fairtrade premium, but again the BSCFA has not received their share of the pie. The reasons that they have written to the BSCFA was one that they are not sharing similar views; that’s one of the excuses. Two, that there has to be greater collaboration between the BSCFA and BSI/ASR. But the question being asked by the farmers is if you sold my sugar and received a premium, then why am I not being paid for it? Or why is it that that premium was paid out to a different association?”

Mai acknowledges that this will not help matters as the two sides hash out their commercial agreement and Fairtrade representatives are in-country to address the issue.

But in a statement on Thursday, BSI/ASR made out the problem to be the BSCFA’s fault, describing a “breakdown in [the] relationship” between BSCFA and sugar buyer Tate and Lyle Sugars, with Fairtrade assisting in the discussions between the two.

BSI/ASR says Tate and Lyle have paid to Fairtrade-certified sugar producers their premiums under their agreements, which are separate and distinct from BSI’s commercial agreements with each association for purchasing cane and making sugar. BSCFA, of course, does not have such an agreement at the moment with either BSI/ASR or Tate and Lyle and while the former is still taking their cane, Tate and Lyle is not paying BSCFA.

BSI/ASR observes that “In the meeting, both TLS & BSCFA reaffirmed their commitment to the shared, overarching objective of improving the livelihoods of cane farmers and strengthening the viability of the sugar industry. They also agreed to continue dialogue to reach their mutual goals. Under the rules of Fairtrade, all parties are obligated to maintain the standards which guide the Fairtrade relationship and the payment of premiums to certified associations.” It adds that none of the associations has been overpaid or wrongly paid and that sugar produced for Fairtrade is permitted from multiple producers which would be mixed, but each gets their funds separately.

BSI/ASR states, “[Tate and Lyle] has communicated the principles BSCFA must meet to renew the relationship that would facilitate having an agreement to receive premiums. TLS continues to engage with the BSCFA in this respect.”

Minister Mai, who notes BSI/ASR and Tate and Lyle are owned by the same company, says the government is troubled by these events and wishes to ensure farmers of any stripe get their fair share.

 

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