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Oct 30, 2012

Hundreds of Citrus Growers protest C.P.B.L. and Banks Holdings

Over three hundred citrus growers made their discontent clear this morning as they have refused to take their oranges to the plant and instead picketed the Citrus Products of Belize Limited, a company in which they have majority shares, but little to no control of the company. The growers were joined by members of the newly formed Belize Coalition for Justice who also took the center stage and gave fiery speeches. Though loud, it is not clear if the words resonated with Banks Holdings, headquartered in Barbados.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano headed to the valley and reports on the acidic words of the growers.

 

Denzil Jenkins, Chairman, Investment Company Ltd.

“The idea of this demonstration is not to punish, as it were, C.P.B.L.  C.P.B.L. as a company which we own majority shareholdings in, we are not about to punish C.P.B.L. or to do anything that is going to be detrimental to the employees of C.P.B.L.  We haven’t got any problem with them.”

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

In an atmosphere of countless demonstrations, all in the name of seeking justice, it is quite easy for the plight of these farmers, a handful of producers belonging to the Citrus Growers Association, to get lost in the fray.  Today’s action succeeded several hours of pep talk, a loose collection of public addresses, most of which revolved around a religious theme, that teetered on rhetoric.  The issue here is a perennial one, regaining control of Citrus Products of Belize Ltd.

 

Melvin Hulse

Melvin Hulse, Former Area Representative

“Right now our problem is, how do we get out of wah company, wah organization like Banks [Holdings Ltd.] from having the veto power over the [Citrus Growers] Association?”

 

So they organized themselves, approximately three hundred men and women, a majority of whom are presumably employees of citrus growers, converged on the football field in Pomona, where they absorbed speeches by invited guests.

 

Dennis Usher

Dennis Usher, Chairman, Toledo Rice, Beans and Corn Producers Association

“If you do not stand for something, you will fall for nothing.  So I want to commend you and tell you [that] standing up here this morning, standing up for your rights, standing up for your industry, standing up for your association is the right thing for you to do and the Toledo Rice, Beans and Corn Producers Association fully endorses you and fully support.”

 

Among the many charges brought against Banks Holdings Ltd., a minority shareholder in C.P.B.L., which is owned by CGA through Investment Company Ltd., is a lack of fiduciary management.  The problem is BHL’s refusal to appoint a chairman for the company.  According to ICL chairman, Denzil Jenkins, C.P.B.L.’s financial woes is grossly affecting growers, who are members of the Citrus Growers Association.

 

Denzil Jenkins

“Our stand here today is for the long term benefit of our growers, who are the owners of this factory and therefore for the long term benefit of this factory and we believe, very sincerely, for the long term benefit of the industry.”

 

Denzil Jenkins

Despite the action being taken, C.P.B.L. remained open for business today receiving deliveries from growers who are members of Belize Citrus Mutual and four others affiliated with CGA.  The losses being absorbed, says CGA Chairman Eccleston Irving, is part of a sacrifice to secure the future of the embattled industry.

 

Eccleston Irving, Chairman, Citrus Growers Association

“Our growers have elected to stand up.  They are the ones who elected to stand up.  We are a lobbying, organizing organization and we are here to stand up with our growers.  They elected not to send and we have to stand up for that.  They are the ones who are taking on those losses because they know that they need to ensure that their rights are being respected and it’s a kind of reversed economics that they know that this is for the long term future of their children.”

 

Eccleston Irving

Jules Vasquez

“So how long will you all suspend delivery?”

 

Eccleston Irving

“Well it’s up to the growers.  The growers will be the ones to say when they want to come back Jules; we are not going to tell the growers what to do.  We take instructions from them.”

 

That momentum, however, may not be sustainable even with a permit to stage their protest in the days ahead.

 

Eccleston Irving

“As far as we are concerned we are meeting our goals.  Tomorrow we have a whole similar lineup of more people coming out here tomorrow and on Thursday.  The police have asked us not to have a demonstration for dour days.  This was negotiated out and this was why were surprised that when we wanted to bring out our tractors and so on right on the site there they resented and they rejected that thinking because this was properly negotiated out.  This is a permit that took almost two days to occur.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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8 Responses for “Hundreds of Citrus Growers protest C.P.B.L. and Banks Holdings”

  1. Rod says:

    Unu only mistake is not marching to the pm house that tha wey unu need fu march ask him to resign under his leadership every aspect of life in Belize is in the toilet.

  2. alley cat says:

    Reporting in Belize really needs to improve, not one media house has really laid out what this fight is all about. All I am hearing is petty stuff, personalities, egos, speeches from coalitions, beans people speech, politicians etc… But nobody is really saying much. What is the issue, is it about money, price per ton, what is it?

  3. XXXX says:

    I think that those people protesting are nothing short of IDIOTS and Fools, I have no connection with any of the citrus company, But I clearly remembered last year when they were complaining that the factory opened too late. I believe that a factory can never open too early…on the other hand last year I believed that they had a valid concern that the factory opened too late because if you have ripe/matured fruits ready to be delivered and the factory is closed you run the risk of loosing your fruits because they overripe and rots or the birds , a freak storm etc. That is if the factory opens too late in the season. On the other hand if it opens early and closes late no harm is done, as no one is forcing anyone to delivered fruits; but the option is there for those whose fruits matured/ripens early to delivered their fruits!!! What a waste of time, I would like a freak storm to come and see what would be the cries of the idiots who have fruits ready to be delivered and is refusing to deliver the fruits because they believed that the factory opens too early. I bet you the person who is leading this demonstration fruits are not ripe/mature or ready for delivery, and he would not suffered as much as the dodo birds that have fruits ready for delivery… If you believe that this comment makes sense please aired it on the news and I will be more than happy to give some more logic explanations…

  4. Belizean says:

    There is no issue..These growers are selfish and silly, They should all just grow up and behave. They LOVE to make the news!!!!!!!!! The reason why these things come up is because they look at everything from the negative view point

  5. Cat says:

    Can someone tell me why Dennis Usher is up there talking? Melvin Hulse? That is politician talks!

  6. Storm says:

    @Louisville, please do not read further. It will give you high blood pressure, the silent killer.

    Growers and even consumers need to look at the fundamentals of how GOB tightly regulates this important industry — basically same as the sugar industry.

    There is no free competition. Regulations control who can grow, how much they pay their workers, who they can sell to, when they can sell, how much they can sell, at what price they can sell, and who buys, processes, and exports citrus.

    In this case, throw in the additional problem that while the processing plants are owned on paper by a Belizean majority, the minority from Barbados was granted a “supervote” that basically nullifies the idea of majority rule. Hulse is right on that, it’s a hateful provision and should never have been ratified. My guess is some money passed to some politician to get that arrangement through.

    The Citrus Act should be scrapped. Why not let these growers sell elsewhere, even outside Belize? Let them sell to the best price wherever they can find it — but that is not possible under the present arrangement. Today growers are like serfs for CPBL, which means Barbadians.

    Open and fair competition improves the breed, and would encourage more capital investment. It will give consumers the best price, too. Belize has a lot more potential in agriculture than it is allowed to achieve.

    Scrap the Citrus Act.

  7. Mr. Concerned says:

    hulse the open his long mouth but the same problem was there when he his in power and never do anything to solve the proble. he had bigger hand in this to solve it. shut up hulse!!!. I wonder if erving got farm, he no got nothing for loose. these people were not giving to the right info to poor farmer all what they are doing is keep them from reaping the fruits. hope they loose if a big storm come up. hope erving can buy them

  8. nicos says:

    Storm is so ignorant, when you do not know anything about growing citrus why would you make ignorant comments. First of all any one can grow citrus, and yes if you have the money, any amount of citrus that you want. And they can sell any amount of citrus that they produce…. there is no quota system in Citrus Industry, there is only a scheduling system that ensures orderly delivery.
    There are growers who are selling outside of the factory, Mayan King, Citrus and Cattle and a Chinese Businessman were all selling fresh fruit outside of Belize. There is also a sizeable local market for fresh fruit.
    The biggest problem in the citrus industry right now is production, we are averaging 125 boxes of orange per acre when we should be doing 300. Citrus is not profitable at that rate and the prices have been low over the past 10 years except for last year.
    The whole fighting in the industry began when the investment agreement was signed by the traitors without the approval of the growers. Some big men in this industry sold us out and believe you me no politician got any money….who got money was the same people who singed away the factory to the barbarians. Scrapping the citrus act will not solve the problem, that will only cause the rich to get richer and the poor get poorer. DO YOU KNOW THAT PEOPLE WHO WORK IN THE INDUSTRY ARE RICHER THAT MOST OF THE FARMERS. That is the problem my friend.

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