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Jan 7, 2015

Alfredo Ortega to P.M. Barrow, “Stop Joking Around!”

Alfredo Ortega

Fair-trade dropped a bombshell on the B.S.C.F.A. today concerning the disbursal of four million dollars to farmers. Prime Minister Barrow went on record earlier this week to say that he will be reaching out to the B.S.C.F.A. and B.S.I. once again to find out what their respective positions are on the negotiation process.  That announcement followed the unanimous rejection of a proposal drafted by ASR/B.S.I. which was presented to the membership of the B.S.C.F.A. at a special general meeting held on Sunday.  While government has to some extent intervened in the deadlock, former B.S.C.F.A. vice-chairman Alfredo Ortega says that the P.M. is not taking the matter seriously.  Ortega says that in the past the sugar crop has proceeded without the initial signing of an agreement between both parties.

 

Alfredo Ortega, Former Vice Chairman, B.S.C.F.A.

“With all due respect, he as the prime minister of Belize, he was elected to that post by the Belizean community.  The farmers played an important role for him to be there, no matter what and I think that it is on his shoulder to take care of the Belizean people, like a dad taking care of their son, and he is not doing that.  I think that it is time for him to stop playing jokes and come to the table and let the sugar industry revive as it should but not to the disadvantage of the farmers; giving the farmers the right to benefit out of their sacrifices in growing the sugar cane.  And I think that that should be the role of the prime minister, to find a way how the farmers can gain on the sacrifices that they are doing, how B.S.I./ASR can make their funds also but that both parties can gain within the industry and, by extension, the country of Belize.  And the other thing is that he should push in a way and he should help the farmers to start a crop because the farmers have not said that they don’t want a crop.  We have always said that we are prepared for a crop.  B.S.I. is saying that they have the mill ready.  Well based on those factors we should sit down and we should sign an interim agreement to start a crop because, look there is something that maybe we have not looked upon.  When the association presented to B.S.I. to start a negotiation for a new agreement, we went on with that crop and it was presented to B.S.I. in 2010.  We went on with the crop, we went on with the 2011 crop, we went on with the 2012 crop, we went on with the 2013 crop without signing any papers and the guiding principle was the old agreement.  It was in 2014 that B.S.I. said well let us sign an interim agreement to guide the process of the crop so that neither the farmers will do any mischief during the harvesting season and B.S.I. would operate within certain guidelines.  So we signed that agreement but we operated, using as a guideline, the old agreement.  So I don’t see where now they are saying that if we don’t sign an agreement that a crop cannot start.”

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