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Dec 15, 2014

Cane farmers Vote To Start Crop

The sugar industry impasse has been broken. By Friday, or at least by the weekend, cane trucks from Orange Walk and Corozal should be lining up at BSI to deliver their product. The decision was made by a majority of cane-farmers on Sunday at a general assembly meeting, after members of the BSCFA and the negotiating team presented the final draft proposals agreed to by both parties. It is a breakthrough after months of turmoil, and it is good news for the industry and the country. But that doesn’t mean all parties are happy. Mike Rudon was in San Roman, Corozal for the meeting and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The meeting with cane-farmers on Sunday got underway at around nine-thirty, with the usual gathering of about eight hundred. There was only one item on the agenda – three final proposals agreed to by the BSCFA and BSI. If the farmers accepted those proposals, the crop would start in a matter of days. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t, and then farmers would need to resort to protest to force BSI’s hand.

 

The discussion, as always, was loud, and as always the farmers are torn. They desperately need the crop to start. Their livelihood depends on it. It had come down to three points – one, that the BSCFA would agree to a seven year agreement; two, that the BSCFA would give up ownership of the cane, and three, that the BSCFA would accept fifty-one cents per ton of bagasse. For some of the farmers, and even some members of the negotiating team, accepting those proposals would mean that BSI/ASR gets everything, and farmers get nothing.

 

Ezekiel Cansino

Ezekiel Cansino, Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“We always put the stand of the cane-farmers, and we simply went to try to negotiate and to reach an agreement, because we saw as directors that if we continue at that point we would never get into an agreement with BSI, so for the best interests of our cane-farmers we went ahead and did this.”

 

Alfredo Ortega, Member, Negotiating Team

“Two years we have been working, two years we have been coming here with you presenting different roads to go…two years we have been here working as the negotiating team, fighting to get the best for you who whenever we meet, we present the proposal to you and you say this is what you want and this is what we go with. Today we come accepting everything that from the beginning BSI said it wanted. Honestly, I am not happy with this, I am not happy with the points and I am not happy with the decision taken by cane farmers.  Today we are here.”

But even with those words of caution from a respected member of the negotiating team, after more than three hours of heated back and forth, a majority of the farmers voted to accept those proposals and start the crop as soon as possible. That decision is final.

 

Alfred Ortega

Alfred Ortega

“I am not happy with this because I think we have gone through two years trying to negotiate something better for the farmers, and then we reach to this point where we are back to square one. I personally am not in agreement with this, but like what I have said before, the majority has spoken and we have to respect the decision of the majority.”

 

Ortega, and other members of the negotiating team, feels that farmers were hoodwinked by government, which needed the impasse to be broken. They feel that the farmers were betrayed by those authorized to negotiate on their behalf.

 

Alfred Ortega

“For the past four meetings I could say when a meeting was held with the DPM in Orange Walk…that was where maybe misinterpretation happened and it was not brought forward when the leaders met with the Prime Minister to clear off what the decision was if there was any decision or not, and they went through with the presentation that was done and that shifted completely what the negotiating team was negotiating on behalf of the farmers on which as you clearly heard today about two weeks ago a meeting was held on this spot at which farmers said no we will not be signing and we want an interim agreement to be signed and negotiations to continue and things just shifted after that, and you see the outcome of today that we just went back to square one.”

 

Ezekiel Cansino

“We are confident that the cane-farmers understood exactly what we presented, and many cane farmers said yes that they want to put some amendments in the proposals, but I feel confident that they are well aware of what they have agreed to.”

 

It is expected that the agreement, hammered out by attorneys by both sides, should be signed latest Tuesday. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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