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May 19, 2015

Why Did the SCPC Cut Quotas?

There is word of an apparent resolution to unrest in the sugar industry which had the potential to blow up into full-scale protest. Because of the lateness of an announcement after a meeting of the Sugar Industry Control Board on Monday evening, we were able to provide only the highlights, but tonight Mike Rudon probes deeper into an obviously ill-fated attempt to cut quotas for sugar cane farmers, just weeks before the season is set to close. Here’s that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

There is probably no reasonable or rational explanation for why the Sugar Cane Production Committee decided last week to cut delivery quotas for farmers in all three associations. Because of the delay in the start of the crop farmers already stand to sustain losses because of cane which will be left in the field. And then, the decision by the SCPC, out of the blue! The timing, quite frankly, raises eyebrows…and indeed it raised the immediate wrath of cane-farmers.

 

Ramon Cervantes Jr., Canefarmer

Ramon Cervantes Jr.

“They revised the production estimate from one point four million to one point two million. Apparently this has never been done, that they revised the estimate in the middle of a crop or before the crop finishes. And what this did was to reduce the delivery quotas of the eighteen branches by a total of one hundred and seventy-two thousand tons, thereabouts, and BSI, which is cane-growing project and research which are owned by ASR/BSI…their quota was increased by eleven thousand tons.”

 

While we said there is likely no justifiable rationale for the decision, there is an explanation of sorts, and it entails separating the real farmers from, we guess, the not so real farmers.

 

Gabriel Martinez

Gabriel Martinez, Chairman, Sugar Industry Control Board

“With all respect the intention of the SCPC and the surveys is to gradually iron out people who don’t have the production. There are a lot of people who have made sacrifices. There are a lot of canefarmers who have borrowed money from the bank, from financial institutions. They have invested. They need time to put their production to the factory. That is, and continues to be, the essence behind the production estimate…to give those real farmers, I will say the real farmers, the opportunity to get their product to the factory.”

 

Reporter

“What is your definition of real farmers?’

 

Gabriel Martinez

“Well those who have the cane.”

 

So who determines who has the cane and who doesn’t? Who determines which farmer is real and which farmers aren’t real?

 

Eiden Romero, Libertad Branch

Eiden Romero

“Sir, how won’t be have production when Fairtrade brought the implementation of replanting, and when they said replanting probably ninety percent of the cane-farmers planted three to five acres, and now we have more than the amount. This morning I saw a talk show with Mr. Carballo and MacLachlan. They were saying that one point four million tons does not exist on the fields. I can’t say that and they can’t prove that also. So what I say is that myself…I will probably stay with like a hundred tons if they don’t give us back, and then I will owe the bank.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Director, Orange Walk Branch

“Only myself…I had a quota of seven hundred and seven tons to deliver this crop, and it was slashed down to six hundred and twenty-four. I lost eighty three tons. And even with the seven hundred and seven I would have stayed with cane on the field. So imagine with eighty three tons less, I will stay with more cane on the field. So it poses a problem not only with leaving cane on the field, but also with paying my debt with the bank. And not only for me…that goes across to all the farmers. So the only one that benefitted from this is BSI/CGP that got almost ten thousand five hundred increase and SIRDI that I hear got seven hundred and fifty tons increase.”

 

So what it boils down to is this – you have a situation where everybody who grows and delivers cane – the farmers and ASR/BSI – is scrambling to deliver as much cane as they can to the factory before the rains start. And suddenly, at crunch time, the SCPC decides to cut cane farmers’ quotas while increasing the quota for ASR/BSI. So who makes up the SCPC? Interestingly, the Chairman of the SICB seemed to develop a serious case of selective amnesia when we asked.

 

Gabriel Martinez

“The composition of the SCPC…not to my knowledge…there are members of each of the associations. At that meeting there were three members – one from BSCFA, one from Corozal Sugar Cane Producers and one from Progressive. They were there.”

 

Reporter

“How much votes does B.S.I. have?”

 

Gabriel Martinez

“If I’m mistaken I think the number of votes is parallel.”

 

Reporter

“One vote?”

 

Gabriel Martinez

“No…it’s parallel to the number of votes for the Associations…as it is in the SICB…there are three for the manufacturers and three for the producers.”

 

Reporter

“But BSI here in the SCPC is a farmer. So why should BSI have more than one vote?”

 

Gabriel Martinez

“As I say I cannot recall properly at this time what is the composition, but I don’t think it was more than the others. I don’t think it was more than the others.”

 

We note that the decision was suspended by the SICB on Monday. We note also that according to Martinez, the revising of quotas will happen…just not this time.

Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.

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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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