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Belize Sugar Industries says company ‘welcomes the Commission of Inquiry’ but will not ‘share proprietary and confidential information’

Posted: Wednesday, June 5, 2024. 4:18 pm CST.

Photo Credit: BSI

By Rubén Morales Iglesias:  The Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI) said on Tuesday that while the company “welcomes the role of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) focused on providing advice on modernizing and improving the long-term viability of the sugar industry,” it will not cooperate with the entity established recently by Prime Minister John Briceño to review the present state of the sugar industry if its goal is to negotiate a new commercial agreement.

“BSI has shared its concern that because it operates in a commodity business that is very competitive, it cannot share proprietary and confidential information,” the sugar company’s Tuesday statement said.

“BSI has also communicated to the government that it will not cooperate with a COI whose platform and focus is to use process as an avenue to negotiate a new commercial agreement which is a private commercial matter,” BSI said in the statement issued on Monday, June 3, a few days after the Commission of Inquiry held its inaugural meeting on May 29.

After a high court judgement ruled on February 29, 2024, on a claim filed by Belize Sugar Industries/ASR and the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Associations (CSCPA) against the Attorney General of Belize, the Minister of Agriculture, the Sugar Industry Control Board, and the Controller of Supplies, that that five of the nine regulations of the May 2023 Sugar Import/Export Regulations were unconstitutional. One of  the regulations required BSI/ASR to disclose their contracts to the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) every time they applied for a shipping permit.

However, BSI said the company anticipates “sharing its views on reforms to modernize the current regulations governing the industry which are dated [sic]”.

“BSI is content to engage in a benchmarking exercise on mill efficiency,” the sugar company said in its statement.

“Similarly, the company remains open to working on a transformational strategy with all industry stakeholders to improve cane yields in northern Belize which are amongst the lowest in the world. This would ensure improvements in productivity and efficiency to make the industry viable.”

According to a statement by the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, June 3, following the Commission’s inaugural virtual meeting on May 29, the Commission is to examine the sugar cane industry’s whole value chain and present recommendations to the Government of Belize.

“A general plan for the first phase of work, along with associated logistics, was discussed and agreed upon,” the Prime Minister’s statement said.

“That first phase is expected to include visits to the mills at BSI and Santander and farm and field trips to sugar production sites in the north and west of Belize.”

The commissioners, who hail from Mauritius, South Africa and the United Kingdom Office, will begin to arrive in Belize during the first week of June. While here, they will have logistical support from the SICB to carry out their work.

The Sugar Industry Commission of Inquiry comprises Chairman Wayne Piper and five commissioners, namely Robert Mariette and Vinod Ramharai from Mauritius, Jeffery Joseph from Belize, Andy Church from South Africa, and Simon Gibbons from the United Kingdom.

The Commission of Inquiry is expected to complete its report(s) by November 30, 2024.

 

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