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Nov 20, 2013

Crop Season in jeopardy, cane farmers stand firm on threat of strike

Five thousand three hundred sugar cane farmers from the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts are determined to go on strike as early as this coming Monday, November twenty-fifth. That is the day on which the mill at the Belize Sugar Industry will be ready to start production in the new crop season, but a strike by farmers means that there will be nothing to mill. The issue is bagasse, a by-product of the sugar-cane delivered by farmers. BELCOGEN converts bagasse into energy which it sells to B.E.L. It’s a lucrative arrangement and farmers want a piece of it, since they actually provide the material which makes millions of dollars for BELCOGEN. This critical issue is, for farmers, a sticking point as they renegotiate a longstanding cane purchase agreement with B.S.I. and its majority owners, American Sugar Refining Limited. All parties were to meet on Garifuna Settlement Day to deal with the cane purchase agreement, but the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, which represents cane-farmers, opted out of the meeting. So with only five days before the start of the crop season, what are the odds of that actually happening? Mike Rudon was in the Sugar City today for an update.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

These mountains of bagasse have become the rock-solid sticking points in the renegotiation of a cane purchase agreement between BSCFA and B.S.I.  The contention is clear-cut. Cane-farmers want a share of the profit made when this bagasse is converted into energy and sold. BSI disagrees. At a meeting proposed for Tuesday, BSCFA wanted a concrete resolution of the bagasse impasse to be front and center on the agenda – the sole agenda item, in fact. B.S.I. disagreed. So the BSCFA did not attend the meeting. BSCFA Vice-Chairman Alfredo Ortega says that the mandate from the farmers is clear – if the bagasse issue is not resolved, they will not budge to deliver cane.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“That is the mandate that we have received from the farmers…and this has not come only from yesterday. That came from years ago that the farmers had placed that responsibility upon us. And lately we had two meetings – one in Orange Walk on the second of November and on the tenth of November we had a divisional meeting in Corozal and in both divisions the farmers had already reiterated that we don’t sign anything and that they won’t start any crop if we have not finalized the negotiations including the bagasse.”

 

According to Ortega, there is no indication that the farmers would be willing to capitulate on their determination to share the profits of the bagasse.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“I see that the farmers are really engaged and they are prepared to continue their support of the administration because they know for a fact that there is a benefit that B.S.I. is enjoying at this point in time – a full one hundred percent of the byproduct of the sugarcane and that is why the farmers are committed that we should be getting a portion of that benefit.”

 

Leonardo Cano

Leonardo Cano, Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“The problem is that on the payment of the bagasse the farmers say that they work hard for that and they think that they could benefit from a part of the money for the bagasse. They say that they are not investing in BELCOGEN, but they are investing in their fields and they work hard for that.”

 

In the very short term the BSCFA will be resending a letter to the Chairman of the Sugar Industry Control Board asking for intervention. We say resend because Ortega says they sent one two weeks ago and got no response. They will also send a letter to the DPM since he is the Minister of Agriculture. If there is no response, then decisions will be made at a general cane-farmers’ meeting set for Sunday, November twenty-fourth – and strike action will be one of the options on the table for discussion.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Really we wouldn’t want to reach to that point. That is why we have been asking to B.S.I., we have been pleading to them to come let us negotiate and be clear on this and let us finalize in as fruitful and friendly a way as possible the situation. And it is not happening. At this point in time we have had the farmers controlled with the information we have been giving them. On the twenty-fourth I don’t know what will happen. At this point like I said we have certain control in regards to how we are maneuvering things and giving information to the farmers. But if things don’t come as soon as possible, clear, I really can’t say what will happen afterwards.”

 

The BSCFA says that all it wants is the chance to come to the table and resolve this situation with the bagasse, and from there they can deal with any other situation in regards to start of crop or state of sugar roads. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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14 Responses for “Crop Season in jeopardy, cane farmers stand firm on threat of strike”

  1. Belizean says:

    BSCFA is close to becoming non-existant! They are asking for trouble. They are begging for the downfall of the industry. What is wrong with these hard headed fools??? So they will let their cane rot, be left with no income? That is how these booze guzzling cane farmers do it. And if there is no cane processed, there is no bagasse! They sure cant look further than the end of their own nose. What a silly bunch

  2. Buju says:

    @ Belizean

    I don’t think it is so much the Cane Farmers here

    In my view the problem is the people representing them. They heard of getting free money and they ran with the idea – but they are putting their livelyhood at risk.

    I would not follow Mr. Alonso and his foolishness and think this thru for myself if i was them

  3. orangewalkenio says:

    I disagree with you Belizean….eventhough the cane farmers can be a stubborn bunch…you shall see how they move…watch and learn.

  4. Ricky Malthus says:

    Had they heeded sound, expert economic advice, they would have fought against the ASR monopoly from the beginning so they would be able to sell their sugarcane to any other buyers such as the factories in Chetumal. Throughout Belize, our anemic CEOs and other managers lack the necessary and required business skills to have insight on operations management of the few industries we have. How shameful !!!!

  5. Checo says:

    BSI should have agreed with the farmers on paper before doing their investment. They cannot expect to receive free raw material for Belcogen forever. As simple as that.

  6. Corozaleño says:

    Now BELIZEAN is the most ignorant and STUPID person — I take offense with your senseless words bashing hard working people!! I bet you have not lifted a cane rod in your life!! You are so darn ignorant of the facts… Just for your information.. Sugar cane contributes to a big chunk of Belize’s GDP — if not for those “hard-headed fools” as you call them, YOU WOULDN’T be who you are!! How lame of you to just blurt out things from your nasty mouth without thinking… Be ware of generalizing.. There are people from those canefields who are LEADERS and lead far more respectable lives than YOU!! – They have a RIGHT to their claim – and the least you can do is let them exercise that right!! Who are you to judge?? From the way you talk.. you are just a simple and lame ignorant and someone have to call your attention to your senseless words!! I take offense!

  7. tracker says:

    These cane farmers have no claim of the profits, they sell their cane to the company, the company can do what they want with the cane. If a person sells seeds to a farmer does he come back and ask for more money when the crops have grown ???????
    They should rethink this as it will only hurt their families.

  8. concern says:

    Belizean what a dumb @22 r u you, you dont see the real picture!!

  9. lolita says:

    ASR is big enough that they can do without little BSI and their petty farmer’s demands. I say call their bluff. NO CANE GONNA GET PROCESSED THIS YEAR! Maybe by the time the farmers catch on what a helluva good deal they got (2015) they might be willing to deliver cane. Hard headed lot them cane farmers. And the PUP sticking their nose in to gain political points. Damn shame.

  10. erectus maximus says:

    BSCFA, sunrise 1981, sunset 2013. RIP my beloved. RIP.

  11. the voice says:

    Most cane farmers are ignorant people with no education. What are you guys going to plant next? Weed? Give thanks to God that the sugar factory is working. Ustedes vendieron la cana al precio que ustedes mismos pusieron. Lo que la fabrica haga despues con la cana no es su problema. Ahora lo que ustedes pueden tratar de arreglar con la fabrica que les vendan el bagazo y ustedes re venderlo pero como es mucho trabajo y dinero no les va a interesar. Ustedes los caneros quieren todo facil y que caiga de el cielo. Mejor consentrense en lo que saben haser bien. SEMBRAR CANA.

  12. Al says:

    And without the cane… no rum. So there goes their booze guzzling ways. How come they are not asking for a cut from the Cane Juice rum? Whatever the case, still have to applaud them for their stance in what they believe is right. Roots belizeans need to get some of that kind of gumption and make the same stance against all these corruption. A massive shutdown of all business for 3 business days. We have to shout to be heard.

  13. GetFacts says:

    The Farmers are well within their rights to want a piece of the pie… It was in the contract they sign to go back to the table and come to an agreement on this issue on a later date… if i am not mistaken!

  14. Pelican says:

    Why is that every time there is an issue in Belize Politicians have to rear their HEADS into the scene. Can’t we do things without involving politicians? Come on cañeros no sean juebones. Hagan sus cosas ustedes. Hay much gente no affiliada a la politica que les puede dar buen consejos. Suelten a lso politicos.

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