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Nov 28, 2014

P.M. Meets With Caneros to Discuss Sugar Industry Impasse

Is there a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel where the sugar industry is concerned? It appears that way, following a meeting between representatives of the B.S.C.F.A., the S.I.C.B., the Ministry of Agriculture and Prime Minister Dean Barrow this morning. As is the case after these meetings in a volatile, dynamic and oh so sensitive industry, nobody’s saying much – only that for the first time, there is a real sense of optimism by government and by the B.S.C.F.A. that the impasse between farmers and the mill can be broken. It’s not broken yet by any means, of course. Mike Rudon was at the Biltmore hotel for the meeting this morning and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

At ten this morning, representatives of the BSCFA milled around outside the designated meeting room waiting for the arrival of Prime Minister Dean Barrow. They were summoned to the meeting, and didn’t quite know what to expect. Shortly after, the Minister of Agriculture arrived, along with his Chief Executive officer and the Chairman of SICB, Gabriel Martinez. Then everybody just milled around, waiting. The Prime Minister arrived soon after and the meeting got underway. An hour and a half later, we got the news of hope, word of a possible road ahead.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Government congratulates the BSCFA and commends the BSCFA on the position that has now emerged. Which position in our view represents a fair and indeed compelling basis on which negotiations can now take place between the BSCFA and BSI/ASR. I’m not going to get into the details of the BSCFA’s position. I will say merely that it demonstrates extremely mature leadership on the part of the BSCFA.”

 

The BSCFA has up to this point remained absolutely inflexible on two primary issues – ownership of the cane and the formula for payment of bagasse. While not willing to bend on those NOW, the BSCFA has claimed that it is willing to talk about it sometime in the future. During that talking phase, they want to start the crop with interim one year agreement. That has been the hard line stance.

 

Dean Barrow

“What still remains is the core stance of the BSCFA. But in an effort to move the process forward, the BSCFA has introduced some modifications into their core position.”

 

Ezekiel Cansino

Ezekiel Cansino – Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“The position of the BSCFA has been one that the cane-farmers have given us the mandate, to start the crop with an interim agreement. But the time is closing in for the start of a crop and we as usual have been flexible with the negotiations. So here we are with the Prime Minister assuring him that the BSCFA is once again being reasonable and flexible and asking his intervention to help us to bring back BSI to the negotiation table.”

 

The PM states that he met with ASR and it was agreed that depending on the outcome of today’s meeting, GOB would have put things in place to coerce a return to the negotiating table. He says that because the BSCFA is such a group of jolly good people, that is no longer necessary and he can now immediately invite ASR to agree on the actual date for a return to negotiations.

 

Dean Barrow

“In asking ASR/BSI to agree to come back to the table I was able to tell them that there is flexibility that the BSCFA is prepared to show and that it was my feeling that that flexibility was such that it ought to produce an agreement. I’m sure you read me loud and clear.”

 

Maybe not exactly loud and clear, but we would say that the Prime Minister has just thrown the weight of government squarely behind the BSCFA, representing five thousand five hundred cane-farmers. In return, the BSCFA has likely agreed to concede something of prior value, though what that is would at this point be only a matter of speculation.

 

Ezekiel Cansino

“We have been studying these issues and yes we are prepared to negotiate. Up to now we can’t say much more, but we are willing to negotiate these issues I the agreement.”

 

Dean Barrow

“I have no doubt that the BSCFA position is a fair one, seeks to protect the interests of the cane-farmers but seeks at the same time to be able to compromise with ASR so that the crop and the industry can go forward.”

We note, as a point of interest, that up to Wednesday, the BSCFA’s position was borderline militant, expressed by BSCFA CEO Oscar Alonzo. Alonzo, who participated in the meeting today, left the room when today’s distinctly different stance was expressed. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

Dean Barrow says they are not just satisfied but gratified by the way the B.S.C.F.A. is moving with the issue. We spoke individually to some directors after the meeting who would also not give details, but expressed optimism. The B.S.C.F.A. will still hold its AGM on Sunday.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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1 Response for “P.M. Meets With Caneros to Discuss Sugar Industry Impasse”

  1. Sigh says:

    Another interim agreement? Wasn’t there one done after the delay last year? It seems that the mode of operations will be interim agreements each year until the market disappears – in 2017 is it? (two years away)?

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