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High Court judgment removes restriction on individual farmers delivering sugar cane

Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2023. 2:51 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Expanding on previous decisions that deregulated major farmers’ associations controlling the organization of delivery of sugar cane and citrus, the High Court ruled on Monday that it infringed on the opportunity for individual cane farmers to work to force them to be members of associations to deliver cane, as required by the Sugar Act.

Presiding Justice Patricia Farnese found that the requirement in the Sugar Act that to deliver cane farmers have to be members of an association of cane farmers is unconstitutional.

Various provisions of the Act were challenged by farmer Russell Navarro and Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI/ASR) in court, including BSI being required to levies for sugar exports and for upkeep of the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB).

Navarro and BSI also challenged the provision that grants first right of delivery of cane to farmers in Corozal and Orange Walk, arguing that it should also apply to those working with Santander Sugar Group in the West.

BSI’s argument that the requirements to pay annual levies to the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) and an export levy violate their right to property was rejected, as well as the challenge on first preference on the basis of where growers live. The court said BSI was not prohibited from contacting other farmers to deliver outside of the North once its quota had been met for the milling year.

On the other hand, Justice Farnese found that the requirement for BSI to contribute to financing the SICB is also unlawful and unconstitutional.

The ruling could provoke substantial change in the industry. No costs were awarded. Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith appeared for Navarro and BSI, while Assistant Solicitor General Samantha Matute appeared for the Government of Belize.

 

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