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Nov 12, 2014

Another B.S.C.F.A. Conference; Is there a Sugar Solution Looming?

Much as it did last year, a sense of unease and hostility pervades the sugar-cane industry and the 2014-2015 crop season, scheduled to start within a month. On Monday, ASR-owned B.S.I. held a press conference to announce that since no agreement could be reached, it had decided to bypass the B.S.C.F.A. and attempt to sign contracts directly with farmers. On Tuesday, the company went on the immediate offensive, meeting with hundreds of cane-farmers from Orange Walk and Corozal to do just that. Today, the B.S.C.F.A. mounted its own offensive and counter-attack at a press conference held in Orange Walk. Mike Rudon was there and has the story. 

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Most of the rhetoric surrounding the sugar-cane impasse is agenda-driven and subjective. B.S.I. blames the B.S.C.F.A. for the failure to reach compromise, and the B.S.C.F.A. holds B.S.I. responsible for the same. B.S.I. claims that its move to bypass the Association is the absolute best thing for the farmers and the industry, and of course, the B.S.C.F.A. disagrees vehemently.

 

Oscar Alonzo

Oscar Alonzo, Chief Executive Officer, B.S.C.F.A.

“We find that it is extremely dangerous. It is a means by which they are trying to pit farmer against farmer, create groups of farmers that are intended to destroy the Association and there only objective is to enable them to make it easier to subject our farmers to an onerous and oppressive agreement that would be detrimental to their interests.”

 

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

“They are coming now like wolves trying to eat up the cane-farmers. They are coming to the cane-farmers now like they are angels in heaven trying to protect the farmers without coming to the Association, bypassing the Association that represents the cane-farmers in the north, in country and abroad.”

 

Javier Keme

In bypassing the Association, B.S.I. has a new agreement couched in a contract which it is trying to sell to reaping groups or individual farmers. Of course, B.S.I. is confident that the new agreement is a good thing with which the industry can move ahead. But again, the B.S.C.F.A. disagrees. Alonzo says that based on analysis, the proposed agreement is the worst ever in the history of the sugar cane industry. And they’re broken down their discontent with the agreement into five main points.

 

Oscar Alonzo

“One, the fact that they are saying that once the farmer delivers the cane and it is weighed on the scale, that becomes the sole and absolute property of B.S.I./ASR…secondly the issue of the payment of bagasse based on fibre instead of bagasse…thirdly, the issue of trying to get rid of the SCPC as the ind[pendent institution that oversees the harvesting and delivery of sugar cane...fourthly, the issue of completely eliminating the Sugar Act as the basis on which we resolve disputes and replacing it with recourse to the  courts of Belize...fifthly, the matter of wanting now to sign a seven year agreement instead of a normal three year agreement.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

To make a long and complicated story short, the B.S.C.F.A. will now seek, very actively, the intervention of the Sugar Industry Control Board. The Association has also indicated its willingness via letter to B.S.I. to negotiate the terms of a one year, interim agreement. None of that is new, and none of it has worked. B.S.I. has indicated that it will not budge on the points of contention and neither will the B.S.C.F.A.. So is there a plan B?

 

Javier Keme, Chairman, Finance Committee, B.S.C.F.A.

“The Association has clearly stated that we don’t have plan B. Our plan A is to start the crop on time. That is our plan A. Regardless, we are ready to start the crop with the interim agreement we worked last year, it worked perfectly well. We have offered that option and we are ready to renew that interim agreement meantime these issues are being settled in the future.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“What they said yesterday…if there is no agreement, there will be no crop. I don’t think that the government of Belize is prepared that no crop is there. That is why we have a government, we have an industry, we have our production, the mill is up and running, so we should have a crop. We are saying that we will have a crop if we sign or don’t sign an agreement.”

 

Alfonso Briceño

With all that said, and there is much being said on both sides, the reality is that whoever has the numbers wins, at least in principle. B.S.I. on Tuesday was confident, claiming that they were certain they would be able to capture enough farmers to make a crop feasible. In figures, that’s a minimum of six thousand tons delivered per day over a twenty-six week crop season.

 

Alfonso Briceño, Chief Chemist, B.S.C.F.A.

“A normal milling day requires at least six thousand tons of cane to be delivered to the factory. Without that amount of cane the factory will not operate normally. There will be losses. Cane will be stocked in the yard and sucrose will deteriorate. B.S.I. is very cognizant of the fact that with the issue of signing agreements with other individual cane-farmers they won’t get anywhere.”

Ezekiel Cansino

Ezekiel Cansino, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.   

“We did have branch meetings in all eighteen branches, and they are in support with their own Association and we will keep negotiating for them a fair deal in this agreement.”

 

Javier Keme

“Apart from the great support that the eighteen branches have shown at the round of meetings held this past week, you will be also assured by the support that we will get on Saturday at our AGM. You will see that we are speaking the truth when we say we have the hundred percent support of our farmers.”

 

The AGM Keme is referring to is an emergency general assembly meeting scheduled for Saturday at which the B.S.C.F.A. will seek to solidify its numbers and get a mandate for the way forward. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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5 Responses for “Another B.S.C.F.A. Conference; Is there a Sugar Solution Looming?”

  1. farmer says:

    NATIONALIZATION NOW

  2. Louisville, Ky. says:

    I believe this would be a good time and a better investment for the government to step in and buy out ASR and thus show who’s side of this issue they are on.
    Call it globalization, neo-colonization or whatever, it is obvious that ASR intends to dominate and have it’s way by that age old tactic of divide and conquer.
    I do not believe even the most rabid critic of the Petro Caribe spending would be against using that fund, to invest in our Caneros.

  3. melinda says:

    if we nationalize, who will buy our sugar? the other thing, famers are paid 85% of the cane price every thursday during crop for cane delivered the previous week.

  4. Norteno says:

    No Nationalization!

    I said it a thousand times and I will say it again!
    1. Dissolve the B.S.C.F.A immediately. Do further amendments of the B.S.C.F.A Law/Act.
    In the past and recent, this Association has made financial mismanagement, poor representation of the Cane Farmers, and poor negotiation will. The provisions of the law that stipulate the association need change! This is a financial management issue! The B.S.C.F.A is not functioning properly, cut out the “middle person” in the business.
    2. Cane Farmers should get more informed by other means when it comes to their Rights, benefits, funds, and negotiations.
    Cane Farmer have the ability of doing the change, they have power!

  5. bzn2dabone says:

    the Association is now trembling. After or doing nothing but filling their pockets, they are now seeing the great likelihood of their 5-course exotic meal being removed from their tables. That’s why they are in such urgency to have the hard-working canefarmers refuse BSI’s contract. For 1 I personally think that the contract needs revision as it is evidently one-sided in favor of BSI. Negotiation needs to take place but I do not trust the Association to do so as they do not care for the cane farmers….

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