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Dec 5, 2016

Why Castro-Escalante Deal Will Be Tough to Reverse According to SCPC

Edmond Castro

The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association continues to reel from news received last week that it would be suspended for the third time by Fairtrade managers FLOCERT. Publicly, the Association has blamed one of its own, Eloy Escalante, whom they have kicked out after he admitted to Fairtrade auditors that he sold his quota or production estimate to the son of Government Minister Edmond Castro, who is now its administrator. The Sugar Cane Production Committee has confirmed that it is not granting new licenses or production estimates to farmers – only administrator grants; only farmers who have died can make provision for their families to take over their holdings. But is there anything legally wrong with the Castro-Escalante transaction? No, according to chairman of the Committee Carlos Itza, who says that to come down on Escalante would open a can of worms for the entire industry.

 

Carlos Itza

Carlos Itza, Chairman, Sugar Cane Producers Committee

“The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers have requested the S.C.P.C. to eliminate Eloy Escalante from the registry. But as far as you might be aware, we wanted to inform that it is not so easy a process, because I understand that the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers have expelled him from their association, but the law also provides for Eloy to associate himself with any of the other associations or even to be an individual farmer. Of course, we are not pushing for him to be an individual farmer, we would want him to integrate into any of the farming community; but at the same time, if we apply the principle that whatever we apply to Eloy, [it] would also affect other farmers that are unknown in the system, in the association and also in the registry. I would say the S.C.P.C. is willing to review its procedures and propose the mechanism that would benefit people who have the cane, and want to make it into the registry. Of course, this has a lot of implications, because currently in the system, many people who can’t get in as a new farmer, they usually become administrators of the production estimate. This has a lot of people hanging in-between, that yes they have the cane, they are delivering the cane but it is under the name of a different person.”

 

According to Itza, Escalante’s name is the only one highlighted in the audit, but they do have indications that other farmers may be affected by the same situation. Itza also noted that the Committee has asked the B.S.C.F.A. for full documentation on the transaction on which it is still waiting. When we visited the B.S.C.F.A.’s offices in Orange Walk Town, none of their executives were available for comment.

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