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Dec 24, 2009

Cane Industry has newcomer; United Cane Farmers Assn

Story PictureAnd in the north, the breakaway cane farmers from have made an impact and historical change on the sugar industry. Since 2007, a group of caneros attempted to disassociate themselves from alleged mismanagement inside the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (B.S.C.F.A.). Well, that was finally accomplished on December sixteenth when the Sugar Industry Control Board, B.S.C.F.A., Belize Sugar Industries Limited and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries signed on the dotted line and officially recognized the existence of United Cane Farmers Association. News Five sat down with Willie Magana and United’s attorney Hubert Elrington, who both fought for changes within the sugar industry and recognition of the new group.

Hubert Elrington, Attorney for United Cane Farmers Association
“We were going about in a timely peaceful way to bring about a revolutionary change within the industry. And last Friday all the parties came together and agreed that yes the Act was unconstitutional; yes, other associations in particular the United Cane Farmers Association is a legitimate organization; that it had full right of participation in everything to do with the life and maintenance of the Sugar Industry; that it be entitled to be at the table and to receive benefits and to take obligations just like any other organization and that any other organization that wanted to do the same thing could do the same thing in a peaceful and responsible way and that in terms of the cess, cess would only be collected by the factory and passed onto the organization if the members of the particular organization voluntarily and freely agree to pay the cess and to direct the company to pass it on. So after this long period of time, almost two years, asking the judge to bear with us and to give us time to negotiate and to try and find a peaceful settlement, after all this time the government came through, the sugar board came through, the factory came through, the other organizations came through and everybody seems to be now on board to try and make the industry work in a constitutional way with a minimum of problem and a minimum of disruption. I think we tried our best and I think we succeeded to a large extent. I would like to say that mister Wilfredo Magana is the person who had the vision.”

Wilfredo Magana, Rep. United Cane Farmers Association
“It has been a long struggle, you know but it’s a learning process and we had a lot of the feeling that we experienced that particular Friday had come along by our attorney he had assured us on a day to day basis that what we are fighting for is there. It’s just a matter of time and we could utilize the time to get ourselves organize so we kinda knew it was coming. We had a call from government’s representative saying we need to meet with you guys on Thursday. The sugar board, with the government representative there had taken a stand and needed to get this matter over. There was no way they could have won in court so they wanted to now really come to the tables and get it final and give United Cane Farmers its full power and its benefits that the stakeholders have in the sugar industry. Friday when we got around the table was practically the historical moment, the liberation day this cane farmer has been bound to the system that showed every year that production was decreasing and this international image was not looking too good for us and there was a call for this. So that particular day for me, every moment of it was very—I did enjoy every moment of it and so basically that was what we were looking for.”

Jose Sanchez
“Looking at tomorrow, your efforts will be on getting the work done of a cane farmer?”

Wilfredo Magana
“Now that we have gotten to that point, the work begins now because we need to deliver, we need to apply the vision.”

Magana says that a third association in the north of the country is currently being formed in conjunction with St. Francis Xavier Credit Union.

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