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Nov 22, 2013

Cane farmers and B.S.I. stand firm; 2013-2014 cane crop is delayed indefinitely

The 2013-2014 sugar-cane crop season was to have gotten underway this coming Monday, November twenty-fifth. But that is not going to happen. There are two obstacles in the way – one caused by nature, and the other by a breakdown of negotiations. On one hand, the incessant rains and the dire conditions of the sugar roads make starting off this Monday impossible. And on the other hand…even if the weather was perfect and the roads paved with gold, cane-farmers say they would not deliver any cane to be milled. There is an impasse between the farmers, represented by the BSCFA, and B.S.I., the millers. The issue is bagasse, or rather a share of the profits from the sugar-cane by-product. The farmers want in on the bagasse bounty and B.S.I. isn’t willing to play ball. The BSCFA invited Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega to a meeting, hopeful for an intervention. That was today, and Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk and has an update.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

After almost four hours of discussion, Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega emerged from the meeting with little positive to report. While he says that the talks were cordial, respectful and frank, the bottom line, and thus the impasse, remains in full effect.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management

“We had the meeting with the deputy prime minister. Our plea to him was to intervene in regards to this situation that we are currently having with B.S.I. and what we asked from him is that we want his intervention so that we can finalize this negotiation with B.S.I. And his response…he says that he will call on B.S.I. so that we can restart the negotiations again. He didn’t compromise that he can tell B.S.I. what to pay us or how to pay us but he compromised himself that he will call on B.S.I. to come to the table and let us dialogue.”

 

Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture

“The cane farmers are consistent in their positions that they will not start a crop unless they finalize some agreement regarding the bagasse. My plea to them is go back to the table. I’m gonna be getting in touch with ASR/B.S.I. for them to come back and meet them and to see what kind of compromise they can reach.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“We remain on our fight that we would go to the table to negotiate once it is for the bagasse and the new agreement.”

 

Mike Rudon

“But no cane will be delivered. Even the roads were perfect and no rain, no cane will be delivered on Monday?”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Well that is the mandate of the farmers that we have. And we will be holding a meeting on Sunday and there we will be presenting the farmers on what we have reached up to this point and we will have a mandate of the farmers by Sunday.”

 

According to Minister Vega, both parties are cognizant that they cannot survive without the other, so both understand that some compromise must be reached sooner rather than later. He says government’s position is only that of facilitation at this point, and all they can do is work to bring all parties to the table.

 

Gaspar Vega

Gaspar Vega

“I wish I could tell ASR you have to pay the cane farmers or if the possibility was there that I could tell the cane farmers you have to cut your cane and deliver unu cane. We cannot do either one. All we are hoping and asking them is to stay sober and whatever decision they take is to be mature on their decision. They have committed that definitely whatever decision they make—if they decide that they will not deliver cane—they are not asking for demonstration, they are not asking for confrontation. The cane farmers are going to stay in their homes and that is how they will show their dissatisfaction. And if that be the case, well we have to commend them for that. Definitely I don’t think there is a Belizean in this country that would like to relive what we lived three four years ago with the crisis. And it just shows that they both standing firm on their belief and the cane farmers believe that they should be compensated on the bagasse; B.S.I. is saying no. at the end of the day, once they stay sober, mature, a compromise will be reached.”

 

There has been some talk that the Sugar Act would be amended and legislation would be proposed to obligate B.S.I. to negotiate with the caneros. But Vega dispelled those reports in a hurry.

 

Gaspar Vega

“The Sugar Act, the government will pass the sugar act after advice from both re cane farmers and B.S.I.; that is what the law requires. It is not the government that takes it on themselves that says this is the act. It has to be recommended by both parties. So again the ball goes right back into both players.”

 

There are also assertions that the farmers are being unreasonable since they have sold their cane to B.S.I., and so have no say in what B.S.I. does with the by-products, and no right to claim an additional return after the sale. BSCFA Vice-Chairman Alfredo Ortega says that argument doesn’t hold water.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“We don’t sell cane to the factory. We have a partnership agreement that when our cane is being sold, all the overhead expense is being deducted from it and what stays, the net strip value stays and that is what is divided—sixty-five to the farmers and thirty-five to B.S.I.  So it is not a buy and sell; it is a partnership agreement that we have after our sugar and molasses are sold.”

 

And so, with all that said, neither the farmers nor B.S.I. are budging from the stances they have taken.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“They remain on what they want us to dialogue for; they place the bagasse but in the last part of the item. And we are saying we want the bagasse and the agreement first. And from there after we can negotiate any other business that we have.”

 

It is expected that concrete decisions on the way forward, including strike or protest action, will be taken in Sunday’s general meeting. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

The cane farmers have not met with Belize Sugar Industries and American Sugar Refinery. The Association boycotted a scheduled meeting on Garifuna Settlement Day.  Sunday’s meeting at Escuela Mexico with farmers from both Corozal and Orange Walk will determine the way forward.

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9 Responses for “Cane farmers and B.S.I. stand firm; 2013-2014 cane crop is delayed indefinitely”

  1. Rod says:

    I am with bsi on this matter the cane farmers always the cry like baby you made a contract with this company you signed it therefore you do not deserve anything else this company is paying you more than anyone else ever did now you wa get greedy and demand we you no deserve and if this company agree with you now two months down the road you wa want something else stop cry and do unu job unu da wa bunch a cry baby. I think vega is setting up this situation so that he can get a cut.

  2. Belizean says:

    ASR, please pack up, retract and extract all investments you made, make sure that the company is downgraded to where it was before you took over, and then lets see what the farmers will do with the baggasse. Then lets see where they will deliver their cane to. Then lets see who will be on their knees begging for mercy

  3. Hatari says:

    Every year the cane farmers are crying about something. It is time for them to quit drinking so much of their crop’s byproduct and start acting like real businessmen. They sold the factory, they sold their crop, and know they still want a bigger cut of what is not theirs. It’s called having your cake and eating it too. Typical.

  4. But boy says:

    Cane farmer need to chill ,,,,,,example “if I buy a computer and I use it to make money on the internet do you think Microsoft should charge you a fee because you use it to make money bullshit need to fire the president of the cane farmer assc. WORK TOGETHER for a better Belize

  5. man fa college says:

    Only until you cut cane with machete and load avg.2 tons on your back daily then I will respect your opinions.Agreements have to be honoured and what one does with their hard earned money is their business and nobody elses.The American owners know something called workers comp and fair wages,they would certainly not be able tl pull this one on American soil.Just food for thought

  6. From the West says:

    Rod, finally you are making perfect sense, for a while I thought you were a computer generating the Same response to every political or crime story. The cane farmers have no business sense. If they had been smart 15 years ago, they might be taking profit of the bagass, but even then they were intend on handouts, hence the situation they are in.

  7. SHY CHICA says:

    soh if i buy wah banana from a vendor does this mean that he can come knocking at my door demanding that i pay him for the peel when i paid for the entire thing from the start? They neva want nothing to do with the trash and now they want dih make demands. They just greedy and dah the poor belizeans wah end up pay for it when they raise price of sugar so they can get more.

  8. concern says:

    only person i agree with is man fa college the rest are a bunch of dumb people sorry to say that don’t know how things work in the sugar cane industry. BSI pay cane farmers for sugar content, amount of sugar on cane if for those above can’t comprehend. therefore, BSI is not paying cane farmers for sugar cane as a whole, remember cane farmers get paid for sugar content.

  9. people from north says:

    rod and so called belizean stop hide and put your real name, people cry you blind not to see the dollar value everything the go up. to give the cane just like that better left that on the field asr without cane they will not make no profit. they are making their money on the cost of the farmers

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