Posted: Monday, June 19, 2023. 12:45 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Another sugar season has closed without a Commercial Agreement between Belize Sugar Industries Limited/American Sugar Refining (BSI/ASR) and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA).
The entities worked under an interim agreement for the 2022-2023 crop and work toward finalizing a new agreement by the start of the 2023-2024 season.
But on Thursday, Vice-President for International Relations for BSI/ASR Mac Maclachlan continued to rule out “transferring value” in terms of the proposed 60-40 gross split by BSCFA, especially after a down crop like this one: “Our position remains exact exactly the same, and that’s that we can look at simplifying things through the commercial agreement, but we’re not in a position to be transferring value. We’ve said that from day one, and it’s still the same. In fact, even more so today, as we’re looking at the kind of industry, particularly business losses we’re gonna be facing this year. So we hope that there’ll be, you know, a common sense approach to this moving forward. It’s not in our interests or anybody’s interests not to have an agreement.”
At the moment, Maclachlan added, neither side is talking to each other because of other issues he described as “deflecting” from the commercial agreement dispute. But sooner or later, he added, that has to be ended so that the industry can be modernized.
BSI/ASR also finds itself at odds with the Government, having confirmed that it has applied for an injunction against the recently passed amended sugar regulations that essentially forces it to reveal more than it would like about its business dealings.
As Maclachlan maintained, BSI/ASR is not to blame for the BSCFA’s Fairtrade woes: “We don’t market and sell Fairtrade sugar and we don’t provide the premiums for it. So we’re simply not the conveyor. So, what that law was doing was trying to make us do things we can’t do. So of course, we had to challenge it. What a shame we have to go through all of this.”
But they can agree with Belmopan, the millers say, about forming the Commission of Inquiry to look into the state of the industry: “We need to modernize this business and we need to help the farmers to modernize, to work in larger units, to have maybe more cooperatives, block farming, these types of things that are going to bring more value to the farmers at the moment. Harvesting and delivery costs twice as much in the north of the country as it does in the west. You know, that’s there’s a win if we can try and look at things like that. So there are so many things that are in our own hands. I think a Commission of Inquiry is essential for looking at how we modernize the industry. Maybe getting somebody in who could, who’s done this before, who’s got a track record and can, you know, come about with a transformation strategy essentially in the cane farm, to improve things there. I think we’ve proven with this mill, especially this year, this is a grade A mill. It’s working very well.”
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