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Oct 26, 2012

Citrus Industry shake up; growers grow weary and prepare to protest

Trouble is brewing in the Citrus Industry. For several years there has been tension within the industry between its stakeholders. The Citrus Growers Association sent a press release saying, “Growers are advised that the citrus factory illegally opened on Wednesday…while the factory did not have a license to process fruit.” Millions of dollars are at stake, and a protest may occur early next week. One respected citrus grower, Anthony Chanona told News Five the time has come for change.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

There is trouble brewing in the citrus belt. The industry has been going through a never-ending battle between stakeholders on its finances, payment to growers, shares and the management by C.E.O., Henry Canton, despite their attempts to oust him by majority shareholders, the Citrus Growers Association in 2010.

 

Anthony Chanona, Citrus Grower

Anthony Chanona

“We are spiraling downwards and we are saying to the government of Belize, tackle this thing from the top. The issue begins at the top. The minority shareholders and the majority shareholder are in an adversarial mode and the majority shareholder is losing its rights; deprivation of property. And the minority shareholder and a fired C.E.O. is basically running that company. That is a crisis of mammoth proportions.”

 

The controversy runs deep, but was flared up with the opening of the Citrus Products of Belize Processing Plant for the start of the 2012-2013 Citrus Crop Year.

 

Anthony Chanona

“What the deputy prime Minister—whether he was ill-advised or he just showed blatant disregard to procedure as prescribed under these laws—what was agreed to is a violation of the very laws which govern how we opened this factory; how we agreed on price payment submissions of fruit and how the growers determine what they will be paid. There is a prescription in law for that process. And that agreement in that meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister skirted completely over those procedures. So as we speak the Citrus Company of Belize has opened its operations illegally. And you have to fix what is broken. So we are calling on the Deputy Prime Minister to fix what is broken. That company with all due respect to the farmers and to the fruit we need to take off, you cannot have bad laws becoming good precedent.”

 

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister, Gaspar Vega met with the industry’s stakeholders to iron out differences. The factory then began to process grapefruits. But government intervention is needed and Chanona believes that it may cause more harm than good.

 

Anthony Chanona

“The fact that the Government of Belize has chosen to treat this matter as the private sector has been one of the greatest, I think, injustices to allow this industry to be in a self-destruct mode when it affects the national economy and the livelihood of thousands of persons. Certainly, CGA as a statutory body cannot be considered a private sector matter. This is public sector; as real as people are.”

 

Citrus Grower and businessman, Anthony Chanona says that justice must be served.

 

Anthony Chanona

“What we are to do is to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our god. Doing justice for all manner of people has to include those same small little persons who basically just want to grow fruit and expect the more informed growers to manage these affairs. So I believe that the greatest injustice that is being perpetrated is the fact that people are benefiting financially from this designed chaos. There is an audit report that we wanted to get a hold of; there is evidence revealed at the Annual General Meeting to show some major discrepancies that are taking place; but somehow the majority shareholders is powerless to act. How and why do we continue to accept this? Shame on us and shame on the government of Belize.”

 

A press conference by the growers, outlining actions to the media, is scheduled for Monday at ten a.m. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

Monday’s press conference will be followed by two days of peaceful demonstration and picketing in front of the CPBL Compound in Pomona Valley, Stann Creek.

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2 Responses for “Citrus Industry shake up; growers grow weary and prepare to protest”

  1. Storm says:

    GOB shouldn’t be involved in any industry beyond regulating safety. Let the businesses compete freely, and may the best man win. With fair and open competition, it is the most fair for everyone, including consumers.

  2. alley cat says:

    GOB should play a role in promoting trade and openning new markets to our products.

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