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Jul 26, 2016

Cane Farmers Protest at B.S.I.

There was an impromptu protest this morning against ASR/B.S.I. Notwithstanding, the company set up barricades and the police showed up just in case. The protest was not advertised so only a handful of caneros came out to say they cannot accept part of the financial losses resulting from affected molasses. ASR/B.S.I. is proposing that the cane farmers pick up two hundred and eighty-one thousand dollars, which translates to sixty-five percent, of the losses incurred due to the Maillard Reaction.  News Five’s Duane Moody reports from Tower Hill.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Just about nine-thirty this morning, a small group of caneros gathered on the Phillip Goldson Highway at the entrance to the B.S.I. Compound at Tower Hill, Orange Walk. With placards in hand, the farmers are demonstrating against the company, expressing their discontent with a stance taken by the millers that cane farmers should foot sixty-five percent of the loss of a tank of spoilt molasses. That’s a little under a three hundred thousand dollars which farmers must shoulder following a Maillard Reaction that has affected almost four thousand tons of molasses.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Branch Manager, Orange Walk Cane Farmers

“As cane farmers we are not in agreement with that because the net value comes after they have sold any material, but in this case, this material was lost under their care. They have shown us and they have presented to us the final amount of molasses and sugar produced with the amount of cane being delivered by the farmers on this past crop. So after that, everything that comes when weighed is under their care so they are the ones that are supposed to bear the losses of this situation. This should be very clear under the agreement that was signed last year with them. As you can recall, they were fighting to be the sole owners of the cane when it is weighed. They fought for seven years for the agreement and also we had the bagasse issue with them that they only gave us fifty cents. So in this case, now I can turn another issue into this case cause if we should share sixty-five/thirty-five in the losses of molasses now, then we should get sixty-five/thirty-five in the use of the bagasse now as bio-fuel which they are using for the plant.”

 

But ASR/B.S.I. says not so; that the ownership of the cane agreement is separate from the commercial bargaining agreement on the sale of the sugar and molasses for which there is a sixty-five/thirty-five split in favor of the farmers. So with the spoilt molasses, which were to be exported, both farmers and the miller must absorb the loss.

 

Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, Vice-President, International Relations, ASR

“It’s a loss; it is not anything that is being taken away per say. It is actually the loss is the revenue that has not been derived from the molasses that was spoiled in one tank. Under the terms of the commercial agreement with cane farmers, the agreement is that cane farmers receive a payment value share of the value of the sugar and molasses which is sold. In this unfortunate case, and it is a very unfortunate phenomenon that has happened with this one tank of molasses; that molasses clearly is not able to be sold and as such the cane estimate, which is only an estimate price that we put out on regular intervals during the crop has been affected by the fact that the estimated amount of molasses we were to be able to sell has been reduced.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“You see what they are trying to do is that they are trying to cover their backside with this thing because really and truly, they were fighting very hard for this thing to happen. You can recall that we went over two years negotiating this agreement with them on which we were fighting very hard to maintain that ownership up to the point of sale. We mentioned that to them many ah times and they adamantly came out and said no; we want to be the owners because if we don’t show that we are the owners, we are unable to go to the commercial institutions where we can get loan to pay you guys to start the crop. Plus they are blaming that the quality of cane was one of the issues that caused this molasses to be damaged on which more and more time is going and we are getting more clarification into this situation; that there are two possibilities into this situation that can cause this reaction. One is that more white lime is being added to the juice and the other point is the temperature on which this material is being stored in their tanks. So those are the things that have caused this reaction and not the quality of cane being delivered to them.”

 

But ASR’s Vice-President of International Relations, Mac McLachlan says that factory procedures as it relates to molasses remain the same over the years and that there are many factors that could have caused the Maillard Reaction in the tank – a natural phenomenon that is not unique, but first for the B.S.I.

 

Mac McLachlan

“It’s not a usual one; it has never occurred here in Belize before, but it’s a very well documented one and it is something that has occurs in different industries and has done in the last twelve months in the United States and the Dominican Republic and it has a number of different causes. And our previous releases have already explained and this one will explain that the main cause for this is the amount of reducing sugars in the molasses. When certain circumstances arise and that causes a chemical reaction in the molasses, which basically ends up heating the molasses up and virtually cooking it. B.S.I. had to act very, very quickly in order to contain that problem when it happened; we did so with full discussion with the Department for the Environment and we contained the issue which could otherwise have caused something of an environmental hazard.”

 

While the protest was impromptu, the cane farmers who assembled today say that they will be organizing another peaceful demonstration in the days ahead. They are asking for the intervention of the Sugar Industry Control Board to resolve the current situation in the sugar industry. Duane Moody for News Five.

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