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Aug 12, 2011

Cane Farmers Association concerned over Banco Atlantida Buyout

As we go into the weekend there is another critical issue on the front burner; one that can potentially change the livelihood of farmers in the north. The Belize Cane Farmers Association is convening a general assembly this Sunday at Escuela Mexico to present their findings on consultations held with district branches on the proposed Banco Atlantida deal. The Honduran bank wants to acquire majority shares in the Belize Sugar Industries Limited but there appears to be mixed feelings over the ninety million dollar deal. One sticking point is over the legislative changes in the Sugar Cane Act. The Bank proposes to acquire twenty thousand acres of land for cane harvesting which would yield half of the total yearly production by the six thousand farmers.  The BSCFA Chairman says there is apprehension over other issues.

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Committee of Mgmt., BSCFA

Alfredo Ortega

“We presented to the farmers what were Banco Atlántida’s proposals and many issues were brought up in those consultations because farmers were worried in relation with what Banco Atlantida presented, that they would want to have fifty percent of production. Farmers raised their concern in this regard that why should they jump into this production sector when the farmers are there that can make available the amount of production that is needed. So that is one part of what was brought out of the consultation. Also, the farmers were very concerned in regards to the payment that they have mentioned; the international payment to farmers. And we explained to them in regards to what they explained to us that they meant payment by quality. The other issue was in regards to the loan that they had mentioned; the twenty million dollars in loans to farmers. Farmers had a very huge concern in regards to that and they presented to us to negotiate a very low interest with them so that it can also assist them where it will give opportunity to all farmers to get this loan available to them because you know many times propaganda is there that oh this loan is available and you can come. But whenever farmers go, it’s a different scenario, different reality.  Also, one query that was brought up in regards to Fair Trade. What would happen if Banco Atlantida comes into the picture? Well, Banco Atlantida has mentioned to us that they would respect the contracts that are out there presently. But it’s something verbal; we don’t have anything in black and white that can demonstrate that yes, this will be the negotiation that will be going on with them. So these are things that are being brought up at branch level and these are things that will be presented at our general assembly on Sunday.”

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3 Responses for “Cane Farmers Association concerned over Banco Atlantida Buyout”

  1. Sugar says:

    Mr. BSCFA…do U have money to buy the factory right now?? can U run a business of that size with the same mentality that U run the association?? do U realize that because of shortfall in the cane supply for over 5 years, the banks have decided to call in their loans?? Uknow that if there is ANY deal with farmers being inviolved in the sugar industry, then ALL banks will call in their loans. STOP being used as ploitical puppets. and tell the people please, WHAT OTHER options are available…??

  2. Works in the Sugar Industry says:

    While opinions and comments fly back and forth by various organizations and politicos regarding the Atlantida investment proposal, lost in the whole discussions has been that fact that the REAL reason why BSI has met these financial challenges has been the FACT that sugar cane production and delivery has been horrendous at best. In the period between 2004-2006 during which the EU was going through its requiste changes in the sugar protocol and price cuts, the Belizean sugar industry agreed on an adaptation strategy for the industry which was presented by agreed by ALL industry stakeholders. At that time, and in conjunction with BELCOGEN being launched and constucted, it was agreed that cane production would gradually be increased upto 1.2 million tons by the time the final price cuts would have come into effect (2010), with further growth in production of up to 1.5 million tons planned by 2012. Instead in the 5 years since the adaptation strategy was agreed (2006) cane production has consistently fallen below 1.0 million tons, with the most recent crop coming in at a dismall 843 K tons (while pre-crop projections was 1.1 million) a drop of over a 1/4 million tons of cane. This would have yielded another 20,000 tons of sugar at this year’s remarkable quality yields. Not only would BSI have been able to service its debt committments, BUT we would have also NOT had any problems with sugar supply on the local market, we PROBABLY not even have been talking about resorting to taking on strategic investors like Atlantida.
    Also of importance and again lost in the hype has been the fact that about a year and 1/2 ago the Supreme Court ruled the current sugar industry legislation to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL because it LIMITS cane production to ONLY those persons that are members of the BSCFA and thereby denies freedom of association to other possible cane producers. It is regretable that the members and leadership of the BSCFA are playing this aspect up when the laws governing the industry needed to be changed anyway as a result of that Supreme Court ruling.
    Instead of hyping up their interest in owning the factory, farmers should focus on using the 8 million dollars a year in Fair Trade premiums to meaningfully increase their cane production so the industry can seriously start to move forward!!!!!

  3. Earl Grey says:

    LET’S NOT GET SCREWED AGAIN…………………

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