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Nov 10, 2014

B.S.I. Skirts B.S.C.F.A. to Deal with Farmers on Delivery and Milling of Cane

The hostilities between Belize Sugar Industry and the Belize Sugar Cane farmers Association will no doubt be ratcheted up a significant notch today after an unexpected announcement by the factory. Starting immediately, B.S.I. will bypass the B.S.C.F.A. and will attempt to deal directly with the farmers in the delivery and milling of cane. It’s an unorthodox move…indeed we can’t remember that ever happening before, but it is the new industry reality at this point. B.S.I. and A.S.R. representative made the announcement at a press conference this afternoon at the factory, subsequent to delivering the announcement via letter to the B.S.C.F.A.  Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk this afternoon and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

B.S.I. and the B.S.C.F.A. have been unable to reach a compromise in the signing of a new cane purchase agreement. It has been a month since the parties sat down at the negotiation table, and a month before the 2014-2015 crop season should get underway. With no agreement in sight, B.S.I. has made the unprecedented move of cutting out the middle-man, so to speak, and approaching the farmers directly.

 

Belizario Carballo

Belizario Carballo, Financial Controller, B.S.I.

“We do not foresee any prospect in the near future of being able to secure an agreement with the B.S.C.F.A. on behalf of all sugar cane farmers. BSI will not move ahead with alternative options to secure agreement for the supply of sugar cane to B.S.I. effective the 2014-2015 crop with those farmers and associations that desire to start the crop on time. We are compelled to pursue these options in the fundamental interest of the industry including cane farmers as an integral party.”

 

There are approximately five thousand five hundred cane farmers in the north, broken down into eighteen associations and three hundred and seventy reaping groups. B.S.I. has already looked at all the figures and has determined this to be the only viable way forward, since they claim that it is obvious the B.S.C.F.A. does not intend to sign onto the agreement.

 

Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, Vice-President, International Relations, A.S.R.

“We have spent considerable amount of time in the past eight months travelling around and talking to cane farmers. We’ve had a lot of opportunity now to really hear and to listen to what cane farmers are saying to us. And it has come to our attention that the overriding concern came from half is that there should be a home for their cane and that this crop should not be interrupted as the last crop was. That had major consequences for cane farmers and for the industry on a whole. We tried very hard to come to an agreement in order to move the crop forward, but we are here—as the statement said—less than a month away from the opening of the crop and it is essentially this time that we start to coordinate that crop because we cannot afford to have another late start.”

 

Any late start would mean that sugar cane would be left in the fields, unable to reach the mill in the window of opportunity presented. Any party, individual or group, would be required to sign onto a new agreement with B.S.I.  That new agreement, to sweeten the deal a little, includes the payment for bagasse at the quantum decided by B.S.I.

 

Michael Young, Attorney for B.S.I.

“The agreement which is being offered is better than the one before. One of the difficulties, in fact a grave difficulty of the former agreement, is that it was not complete. And that gave rise to issues of difference between the parties. This agreement is more complete and furthermore, it includes an economic factor that is better for the farmers when you look at this agreement than what was there before.”

 

The offer will remain open until November twenty-eighth because the mill will need to know exactly how much cane to expect. An acceptable figure, in terms of viability, would be in the region of six thousand tons delivered per day. Anything less than that would not do. The move smells curiously and strongly of B.S.C.F.A.-busting…cutting out the association completely, but the factory reps say no way.

 

Michael Young

Mac McLachlan

“That’s completely incorrect. I mean we have and continue to have a dialogue with the B.S.C.F.A., we want to continue to have that dialogue to continue to talk with the B.S.C.F.A. leadership. But you have to remember that all these cane farmers are effectively members of the B.S.C.F.A.; they all have a voice. I think all we are doing by offering to settle independently with the cane farmers is just giving them that voice. It is our perception from dealing with a lot of different, talking to a lot of different cane farmers in the field, as we have been, that many of them want to have that choice. And I think that that’s exactly what we’ve decided to give them in that sense. We are not precluding any other outcomes to this. We’ll continue to talk to the B.S.C.F.A. and we hope that in the end that every cane farmer will be able to deliver their cane. And that is what we would like to see.”

 

Michael Young

“It’s not about TV news, dramatics, castigations and these kinds of things. It is about money; that’s what we are dealing with here. And that is what has to inform the operation of the sugar industry. So it is only after these deep difficult negotiations that we reach the point where the B.S.C.F.A. has its position, the B.S.I. has its position and there could be no meeting between the two. Are we going to allow that to stop the commencement of the crop? No. So the idea that this is some attempt to break the back of the B.S.C.F.A. is not the case. In fact the same agreement…we would be happy for the B.S.C.F.A. to sign.”

 

It may seem a little far-fetched to think that the factory would get one hundred percent cooperation from farmers, which it basically needs in order to make milling financially viable. But the men at the head-table today say they would be surprised if they don’t get the full support of cane-farmers. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

According to B.S.I., their field analysis indicated that the 2014-2015 crop could be a record season if all factors fall into place. That is why there is a sense of urgency in doing anything and everything necessary to ensure that there is no delay.

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2 Responses for “B.S.I. Skirts B.S.C.F.A. to Deal with Farmers on Delivery and Milling of Cane”

  1. belizeanatheart says:

    Dear Cane farmers, If are are not united in your position, prepare to pay the ultimate price of slavery to ASR. This has happened over history over and over, the weak against the strong, only a united cane farmers can negotiate. This will measure how strong farmers are after-all.

  2. Belizean says:

    It was about time that the old cow got out of the way. BSCFA has for too long, enslaved the farmers. I think the farmers will now have a chance to speak their mind. They have hardly had a chance for their own voice. Everything else has been tried, so this is the right next move – in my opinion

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