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Feb 25, 2015

Are Citrus Growers Being Paid?

A year ago, after weeks of financial instability within the citrus industry, the Government of Belize, along with various stakeholders, including the Social Security Board, the Citrus Growers Association and Banks Holdings Limited, signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the way forward.  The M.O.U. gave way for the appointment of a seven-member board of directors to which S.S.B. Chairman Doug Singh was selected as presiding officer.  The sea change within the embattled industry subsequently saw the departure of Doctor Henry Canton from his post as C.E.O. of Citrus Products of Belize Limited.  In the aftermath of the restructuring, it appeared that all was well, but is now coming to light that there is trouble brewing in the citrus belt.  On February thirteenth, a claim was brought against the Attorney General, the Citrus Control Board, the Citrus Growers Association and CPBL on behalf of Belize Citrus Mutual.  The suit involves a constitutional challenge to the existing Citrus Processing and Production Act which BCM contends is discriminatory since it confers privileges, rights and powers to the Citrus Growers Association.  As it stands, the arrangement excludes other producer associations, as well as the conditions constituting the Citrus Control Board.  The claim also disputes the present system for the fixing of producer quotas and prices due to the fact that producers are not part of CGA.  Additionally, there is the allegation of a serious cash flow problem, resulting in growers not being paid for their produce.  The issue is compounded by the fact that citrus futures on the commodities market are at an all-time low since 2008, with citrus being traded at a dollar and twenty-three cents U.S. per pound solid on Tuesday.

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