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Jul 24, 2015

After Banner Crop Season Caneros and ASR Meet to Discuss Sugar

The Sugar Cane Season started on January twentieth and ended on July twelfth after it was extended to accommodate farmers who still had cane in the fields. But despite the extension, some farmers still experienced losses in what is being called a record sugar production crop season. Now, to get to where it is, the industry was embroiled in a long and bitter disagreement that almost saw the splintering of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. All those issues haven’t really gone away, but for now the parties have put those differences aside.  Reporter Andrea Polanco was in the Sugar City today where a conference was being held to update the public on the banner crop.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The 2015 Sugar Cane Crop Season is the biggest yet, although the season started almost two months late. In a twenty-four week span, it broke record in the history of the sugar industry.

 

Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, Vice-President, International Relations, ASR

“We ended up producing not only more sugar, but a lot more sugar than ever before in the history of the mill. So, we produced around one hundred and forty-two tonnes of sugar and the last record was around one hundred and twenty five tonnes. Last year, we produced a total amount of sugar of a hundred and twenty three thousand tonnes and we ground about (trying to remember the statistics) but one point two million tonnes of canes. This year we ground a little less, and we were grounding a little bit more slowly but we were extracting a lot more sugar and we ended up producing at the end of this crop a hundred and forty two tonnes of sugar, from marginally less cane. A lot of things worked out. We had great quality of cane and there wasn’t any stop in that delivery and brilliant factory efficiency.”

 

And it’s a welcome boost for the sugar industry, especially the farmers.

 

Ezequiel Cansino

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman, B.S.C.F.A.

“The cane farmers did most of the job to have a very successful crop this year.

 

Elvis Canul, Chairman, CSCPA

“As a new association, I can report that our association accomplished a little above eighty percent production that we had estimated. We can also compliment our cane farmers that we were third in quality out of nineteen test group, so we have an association that is working with the quality program and that means more money for our cane farmers.”

 

But while it’s a celebration for ASR and those who had a great season, the same can’t be said for all cane farmers, some weren’t even able to get a stick of cane out of the fields. While figures for total losses or canes still in the fields are not available, the impact on small farmers is being felt.

 

Ezequiel Cansino

“It is a bit difficult for us to accept that some of our cane farmers won’t be able to increase their financial situation because a lot of cane stayed behind and there is where our profits was, see? The cane farmers who stayed at zero is very small, there is not a huge number, but yes, with below fifty percent of their deliveries, yes there are many cane farmers. That is what we are focusing on for this year to put a system that all the cane farmers stay at the same percentage of delivery.”

 

Reporter

“Is there any chance that some of these farmers will go under water because they have their banking obligations, they have their family commitments that some of them might have to say mien ah wah sell mi field and cut mi losses?”

 

Ezequiel Cansino

“That is the most difficult part and that we are saying yes there will be cane farmers who will be in serious trouble, financially. Up to now there is no help for those cane farmers.”

 

Elvis Canul

Elvis Canul

“We do have a big concern at this time. There is a process of reporting the stand over that has been left in the field and it is quite significant and we see the report that is coming and as we say it wasn’t a hundred percent crop, it wasn’t a full crop and we have stand over at this time.”

 

Reporter

“Will some of your farmers be suffering losses?”

 

Elvis Canul

“Oh, definitely. The stand over represents that there will be less weight for the next crop because there will be a decrease in the next crop because it loses weight and the sucrose content. So, we will see a decrease in quality for the first weeks in the crop for the next period nuh.”

 

Abisur Loza

Abisur Loza, PSCPA

“I am really concerned of the loss that the farmers are having because we just target delivery side for the eighty percent more or less and it’s a little more than that but farther than that but it’s more or less eighty percent.  We have a production estimate in the PCPA of two hundred and seventy thousand tonnes and we delivered an estimate of two hundred and twenty two thousand tonnes. If you can see we have fifty thousand short, so that is more or less being shared equally among the big farmers and small farmers.”

 

But just what caused this problem?  According to the players, it is a compounded one.

 

Mac McLachlan

“The coordination for proper course is not for the mill but the CPC. But essentially what we did do, we were supposed to finish the crop on the twentieth of June because the factory needs to be repaired and stuff and it’s not built to be grinding wet cane. We conceded to extend that by a week and then following interventions by farmers and the government, we agreed to further five day extensions. I think we tried to do our very best to accommodate those who hadn’t managed to deliver cane. I really think that we need to look at the harvesting and delivery system. At the moment, harvesting and delivery cost farmers about half of the money that they earn. In any efficient industry anywhere, it would probably be half that amount.”

 

Reporter

“Is there anyone you can blame for this, or is it just how it unfolded?”

 

Ezequiel Cansino

“Well, it came unfolding because I believe the lateness to start the crop. This has happened now two years and this has contributed a lot to this.”

 

But now it’s time to forge ahead and despite the start to a rocky relationship, the ASR and Cane Farmers Associations are now at a better place. With the falling world sugar prices; it is a must for all partners to come together.

 

Mac McLachlan

“Well, we’ve always had a cordial relationship with the association of cane farmers. We meet together frequently, regularly, not always in the spot light. We have a lot of issues to discuss and things to overcome. But, I will say one thing that this year we have a new focus which is our strategic development plan. That’s to look at how we can increase the efficiencies of this industry to make it sustainable into the future, against the backdrop of rapidly falling world and EU sugar prices which will have an impact on all sugar industries across the world.”

 

Abisur Loza

“The queries that I have is for the next crop season because wer are being told that we will have a reduction of thirty percent in the price estimate and that is something that we all have to confront.”

 

Elvis Canul

“The sentiment moving forward is that we will have a little growth in our association because they saw the potential that we have as working the differences. For example, our directors, our board is a volunteer movement.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, you’re saying there is even more interest in the sugar industry in Corozal?”

 

Elvis Canul

“Yes, definitely. We see that farmers want to make the production but they are very skeptic to what the future has.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

 

McLachlan says that ASR and all three cane farmer association made a seven year commercial agreement at the start of this crop. It is expected that this agreement will make doing business easier.  ASR says that its commitment can also be seen in the thirty million invested so far in the factory.

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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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