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Nov 23, 2015

Sugar Prices Key Agenda Item During B.S.C.F.A.’s Annual General Meeting

Oscar Alonzo

Three major sectors in the agriculture industry are in deep trouble. In the shrimp industry, thirty million dollars has been lost due to a bacteria that has infected upwards of fifty percent of the farms. The banana industry also in the south is faring no better as hundreds of workers are losing their jobs as Fyffes cancels its contract with Meridian Enterprise, the managing arm of Maya King. And in the north, the sugar belt is in heightened tension.  Last Thursday, the Belize Sugar Industries Limited, in written communication to all three cane farmers associations, including the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, made clear the grounds for the first cane price estimate of thirty-five dollars for the upcoming crop.  The correspondence was an answer to a request made by the tripartite body to B.S.I. for a review of its estimates in hopes of increasing the original first payment.  While B.S.I. reiterates its position that those prices are based on figures set by the European Union, the joint associations have approached Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega for an intervention.  Likewise, caneros are lobbying for an increase in the cost of domestic sugar.  News Five spoke with C.E.O. Oscar Alonzo of the B.S.C.F.A.

 

On the Phone: Oscar Alonzo, Chief Executive Officer, B.S.C.F.A.

“We received the letter from B.S.I. which informed us about the first estimated cane prices for this crop which was set at forty-one dollars and fifty-six cents, of which, in accordance with the agreement, we are paid eighty-five percent for cane payment, you know, for the crop which amounts to thirty-five dollars and thirty-three cents.  This crop was extremely disappointing and we had met with B.S.I. and asked them for more information regarding this price.  They provided it to us and I think we suggested three assumptions that could be revised since we thought they were extremely conservative that they used to reach this estimated price.  However, they refused to budge, to consider any increase and we subsequently sent it in writing to them.  Afterwards, the other two associations to whom we had copied our letter to were also concerned about this price and we met and we discussed the matter.  We sent a joint letter to the Deputy Prime Minister who is the Minister of Agriculture regarding this situation; you know, to have the company, one: review its assumptions.  And not only that, but also to consider other measures that could meet the, and give the farmers a better price as first payments.  The other issues that were raised, the other measures that were raised have to do with the price of domestic sugar.  As you are aware, the price of this commodity has not seen an increase for the past ten to fifteen years; unlike other commodities like rice, beans and flour that have seen increases from time to time.”

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