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Dec 2, 2014

Still no resolution in dispute between BSCFA and ASR/BSI

The 2014 sugar crop is programmed to begin next week Monday, that’s six days away but there is still no resolution to the dispute between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and ASR/B.S.I.  After many rounds of meetings, the BSCFA is tonight no closer to reaching an agreement with the sugar company, but it is hopeful. The only proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for the five thousand plus cane farmers is a meeting scheduled for Wednesday with representatives from ASR/B.S.I.  That meeting can avert a protest if the results turn out positive for the farmers. For now, the situation is fluid because both sides are sticking to their positions. This afternoon representatives from eighteen branches met in Corozal Town to strategize before going into the negotiation with ASR/B.S.I.  News’s Five Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Today’s congress of executives from the eighteen branches of the Sugar Cane Farmers Association is being book-ended by two rather important meetings.  The first was held on Friday, when Prime Minister Dean Barrow convened a sit-down with the BSCFA.  That meeting was an attempt by government to bring both parties back to the negotiation table prior to the start of the sugar crop season on December eighth.  The other meeting will be held in Orange Walk on Wednesday morning, when BSCFA resumes discussions with American Sugar Refinery on several key issues relating to bagasse.

 

Ezekiel Cansino, Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

Ezekiel Cansino

“We called this meeting with the eighteen directors and the negotiating team and we, this is in preparation of the negotiation that we expect to start with BSI.  And so today we entered into discussion on what proposal we’re giving to BSI when we sit with them to negotiate the start of the crop and the new agreement.  And I can confirm that we did receive a letter from BSI and they are responding to us that they are ready to sit down with us tomorrow at 9:30 at the BSI Staff Club in Orange Walk.  What we discussed today, well I will not be giving more details on that until tomorrow.  Let’s see what happens with the negotiations.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Should there be a breakdown in negotiations going forward, I know you’ve been through this particular process several times over and there hasn’t been an amicable result, what happens thereafter?”

 

Ezekiel Cansino

“Well, we are putting our hope, our all and willingness to get through this impasse and we hope that tomorrow we have positive answers and positive results from these negotiations.  I don’t want to go on and maybe saying negatively, we are trying to be positive and to break through this negotiations so that we can start a crop as soon as the eight of this month.”

 

While Cansino would not divulge the outcome of today’s meeting, he maintains that the association is acting in good faith by restraining its membership from taking industrial action.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“At this point in time I wouldn’t be able to say that yes something positive will come out tomorrow. But that is what we are looking forward to that B.S.I. coming with negotiating terms on the table rather than it is this or nothing, so that is what we are looking at tomorrow.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Now the PM has met with you guys as well with regards to trying to break the impasse in terms of it being favorable to both sides in this situation. Do you believe you have the full confidence of the government going forward particularly into tomorrow negotiations with B.S.I.?

 

A

Alfredo Ortega

lfredo Ortega

“Well personally I was unable to be in the meeting but of what I heard about what was being presented in the meeting I believe that yes we have in a certain way the support of the government and I also learn that there have been a meeting with the PM and ASR in which they have pressed them to come to better terms of negotiations with the BSCFA.”

 

The current impasse in the sugar industry is somewhat reminiscent of what took place a year ago when both parties were at loggerheads just before the start of the 2013-2014 sugar crop season.  Admittedly, the deadlock resulted in financial losses on either side of the argument.  Cansino remains optimistic that such won’t be the case this time around.

 

Ezekiel Cansino

“That’s our fear and we are saying that we are giving all our hope. We start on the eight because after the eight we are seeing that yes we will start to have losses open both sides. Because today we have a big estimate of production out there and we cannot allow losing this production this year. So the meeting we had we agreed that the ideal date to start the crop is the eight so as to avoid any losses from cane farmers or from BSI.”

The BSCFA agrees that it may not be able to get everything it’s lobbying for on its existing list of points, however, Ortega says they are willing to compromise.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Well I think that we are flexible enough in terms of our presentation and that we can come to better terms. The situation is that they have never come to that flexibility of negotiating and that is what we are looking for. That we can come to the table as you rightly said. In any negotiation you are unable t get a hundred percent but to at least come out with a win, win situation and that is what we are looking forward to. That once we start the negotiation we can have the same type of professionalism as two partners in the business and come out with a win, win situation. Not taking advantage of each other but to get benefit out of this product and so that transcend to the benefit of our country of Belize.”

 

Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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