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Jul 29, 2016

Cane Farmers Protest at B.S.I. Again

Earlier this year, a small group of caneros protested against ASR/B.S.I.; today in a second demonstration, the numbers had swollen somewhat.  The bone of contention is that the miller is passing on to the farmers, part of the financial losses incurred from the Maillard Reaction which has been found in molasses in one tank at Tower Hill.  The farmers say they should not be saddled with that. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Basta ya – El Canero no debe pagar por la perdida de la melasa – Enough, cane farmers should not pay for the spoilt molasses. That message resonated today at yet another peaceful demonstration organized by cane farmers on the Phillip Goldson Highway at the junction to the B.S.I. Compound at Tower Hill.  This morning, a larger group gathered to express their discontent with the millers for asking them to pay almost three hundred thousand dollars for the loss revenues from a tank of spoilt molasses.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Cane Farmers Orange Walk Branch

“We would want to have more farmers, but this is what we have right now and I really appreciate the amount of farmers that are out here. This is a way that we are demonstrating that we are not happy with what is ongoing mostly with regards to this molasses issue that has been lost.”

 

Duane Moody

“Has B.S.I. come in contact with you guys? Asked you guys to come sit at the table to discuss and find a solution to this issue?”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Not as yet. They continue with their same ego system where they are saying that we should share the loss and that is what is covered within the agreement and we say no. It shouldn’t be like that because as you clearly know, they fought to be the owners of the material once it is weighed so it is their full responsibility to take care of the material. And that is why we are saying we are not responsible to take any burden of these losses.”

 

Minister Edmond Castro, who says that his family members are also farmers in the industry, also chimed in on the controversy in the sugar belt.

 

Edmond Castro

Edmond Castro, U.D.P. Minister

“I am totally in agreement that the molasses was under their care and they should hold the hundred percent responsibility for the molasses and do not charge the farmer for that because it has nothing to do with the farmer. The farmer had already delivered their cane and we still have to wait some six weeks, over a period of time to get our second payment and third payment.”

 

Reporter

“What would the government be able to do to support the cane farmers if B.S.I. continues?”

 

Edmond Castro

“I think first of all B.S.I. need to get their act together and come clean. There is no way you can say that the cane belongs to them when it hits the scale and then when something goes wrong, then it belongs to the cane farmers and the cane farmers should hold the blunt or the bag. So B.S.I.; this has nothing to do with the government. This is a business transaction between the cane farmers and ASR/B.S.I.  B.S.I./ASR needs to come clean and take care of the cane farmers because they have the molasses; it is spoilt under their care. It never spoil last year, it never spoil the year before so they need to hold the full responsibility for that and pay the cane farmers what is due to cane farmers.”

 

Otilio Muñoz

Aside from several politicians and members of the Orange Walk Town Council parading the highway, the cane farmers also received support for the Orange Walk Chapter of the Belize National Teachers Union

 

Otilio Muñoz, B.N.T.U. District President, Orange Walk

“The Belize National teachers Union is not only about the collective bargaining agreement and all these things. We are also concerned about national issues. The media knows about it; we have made several campaigns about anything that is of national issue and we believe that this is of a national issue, and especially for the northern part of the country. We are from the north and I can feel as a norteño, if this thing continues, at the end of the day, every single one of us in the north will be affected, regardless of what profession you are.”

 

And by this afternoon, ASR/B.S.I. issued a release maintaining that the current cane payment system should not be confused with the issue of ownership of cane. The release says, (Quote) “The damage to the molasses was caused by a combination of factors including both the abnormally high level of reducing sugars which is the reacting compound associated with the Maillard reaction, the weather and ambient temperatures, resulting in a lost opportunity to sell this product. As there was nothing to sell, there was no revenue to share.” (Unquote) But cane farmers are asking for the intervention of the Sugar Industry Control Board.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“According to the chairman, there hasn’t been any response. A letter had been sent to them by the B.S.C.F.A. asking for their intervention long before Tuesday, from since we had the meeting with B.S.I.  And no response from them. And that is something that really we don’t feel happy about that because they are the regulating body within the industry and we should hope that they should be prompt in acting when there is an issue.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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