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Sep 18, 2017

A.S.R./B.S.I. Ready to Go on DC Sugar Project

The long-awaited upgrade to the Tower Hill sugar factory is to get underway despite misgivings from a major corner of the industry. After a record-breaking crop year, and ahead of the point where they could opt out of a seven-year commercial agreement with American Sugar Refining/Belize Sugar Industries Limited, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association earlier this year asked for several amendments to the agreement, which A.S.R./B.S.I. prefers to hold off on. But so convinced are the producers that the investment is “common sense” that they have called the Association’s bluff and broke ground today for the project. Will they be proven right? News Five’s Aaron Humes traveled north and has this report.

 

Aaron Humes Reporting

For all the encouraging news coming out of Tower Hill today, this was the most eye-opening portion of Mac McLachlan’s statement at the launch of what ASR/B.S.I. calls phase-two of its strategic development plan for the sugar industry.

 

Mac Maclachlan, VP International Relations, ASR/B.S.I.

“We had hoped this morning to be able to announce to the wider community that the third association had also agreed to these changes, but were disappointed to learn that this is not the case, at least so far.”

 

It means that even though the sugar millers are going ahead with the twenty-two million-dollar investment in direct consumption sugars, which includes improvements to the mill and a new thirty-thousand-ton warehouse nearby, the potential largest source of the cane needed to produce the sugars may not be on board in time for the expected start of crop in December. Nonetheless, MacLachlan said B.S.I. could not afford to wait any longer.

 

Mac Maclachlan

Mac Maclachlan

“I don’t want to get into the ins and outs of that, because we have agreed with B.S.C.F.A. that we will discuss that among ourselves; I am hopeful that B.S.C.F.A. will be able to accept a way forward on that. In the meantime, to answer your second question, this industry does not have time to wait. I made it clear earlier today – this industry needs to move forward now. The first of October, when the market changes take place in Europe, you could blink for a long time now and you would be there. It’s a couple of weeks away. We need to prepare for that; we need to be prepared. We did not want for the sake of the industry and in particular the farmers who signed up to that commitment with us, to hold that investment back.”

 

It’s an acknowledged risk by an industry not always known to take them. But Minister of Agriculture and long-time sugar backer Godwin Hulse says Government is behind them all the way, as this represents the future of an ancient source of national revenue.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture

“In the Ministry, we have set a very positive policy of moving from primary product to value-added products; in other words, moving from chicle to chewing gum. You know the block of chicle used to go out some time ago for fifty cents, and came back as a little pack of Nova chewing gum for sixty cents. That is where value-added is. That is where the developed countries made their money – took our primary products, processed it, sold it back to us expensive, and sold it to the rest of the world. Today’s investment is going to put the sugar directly into people’s teacups, into people’s bun and bread; into people’s cake, and it is a processed, final product, without going through that intermediary stage, so it signals a massive step forward in value-added product.”

 

But is everyone ready for this brave new world? Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Representatives of both the B.S.C.F.A. and the other participating associations – the Progressive and Corozal Producers’ Unions – declined comment on the record following today’s event.

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