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Dec 2, 2013

PM tries to chart a way forward with cane farmers

December fifteenth, 2013 has been set as the deadline for the start of the 2013-2014 crop season. After that point there is a very real risk that the season would be cut very short by rains in June 2014, and that means serious losses for all stakeholders. But with only two weeks to go, the impasse between B.S.I. and the BSCFA has yet to show any sign of weakening. Both parties have taken hard-line stances, and neither seems willing to relent. One very significant change in the dynamics of the situation came last week when Prime Minister, Dean Barrow threw G.O.B.’s unequivocal support behind cane-farmers. That’s big backative indeed, but there’s no telling the effect of that move just yet. Today Prime Minister Barrow met with the BSCFA to assist in charting a way forward…and all ways forward lead straight through the American Sugar Refining Limited. Mike Rudon has an update on the standoff.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Today at ten am Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega met with representatives of the BSCFA at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. At this point it’s all about mediation, and GOB needs to get both sides to the table to talk bagasse, or more accurately, payment to farmers for bagasse. That’s probably going to be a difficult proposition, since ASR has stated its position repeatedly, and in no uncertain terms.

 

Ricardo Lima, Vice President, ASR

Ricardo Lima

“I think that first of all we don’t sell bagasse to anyone. Bagasse itself has no value to anyone…that’s key. This notion that bagasse has value…it has value if you convert it, if you spend millions of dollars as BSI did. It doesn’t have value on its own so that’s a misconception or maybe misinformation.”

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Vice Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA

“Once more the Prime Minister reiterated his position as he did when he did his press conference, that he fully supports the cane-farmers in regards to the issue we have with the bagasse, and he reiterated it today along with his minister that he had with him, so he is saying that we have the full support of the government of Belize in our regard.”

 

While that support is one thing, the repercussions from a delay in the crop season or worse, no crop season would be another thing altogether…nobody wants that to happen, even the farmers who are using that threat as a whipping stick. And so the Prime Minister will be meeting with ASR to try to bring matters to a mutually beneficial head.

 

Dean Barrow, Prime Minister

Dean Barrow

“We had already located to their local agents that we want such a meeting. Mr. Montalvo said because of the Thanksgiving holidays he was not able to get in touch with the central authorities – he would have an answer to me by the close of business today as to how soon that meeting can take place. We will take to ASR the position which we had in fact stated at the press conference and which we in fact repeated to the cane-farmers today and see if on that basis we can bring the two sides together for face to face negotiations.”

 

While the government has indicated its total support for farmers where the claim for additional payment for bagasse is concerned, GOB does not support any threat to the industry. But like it or not, that is the stance taken by the farmers and they are sticking to it, before and even after the meeting with the PM.

 

Dean Barrow

“They’ve said that their willingness to start, that there is a desire to start, but whether they actually start will depend on what happens between ASR and the government at the meeting we’re trying to arrange.”

 

Reporter

“Are you all prepared to say let’s start the season and we continue to work towards receiving money for bagasse?”

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Not at this point. At this point what we are looking for is to have a commitment from ASR/BSI where we will be looking forward in this negotiation…at this point we cannot say that we’ll be starting a season. All we are looking for and the Prime Minister has agreed, that he will be seeking ASR to come to the table and to start negotiations and from thereafter we will see what that first meeting will be pointing to with ASR.”

 

According to Alfredo Ortega, the hope of BSCFA is that with government’s support behind the farmers, ASR would be inclined to meet them on more promising grounds. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

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2 Responses for “PM tries to chart a way forward with cane farmers”

  1. Farmer says:

    BSI should put up a notice at entrance to factory for the farmers to remove their bagasse in 3 days after that it becomes the property of BSI just like a machine shop does it!

  2. ceo says:

    Ah-dah! Thanks for that enlightening comment Mr. Lima! Perhaps you think the came farmers would have never figured this out on their own! By the way crops and raw materials (except precious metals) usually have little or no value until they are processed and converted to a usable product: if you did not realize it so does sugar cane! By the way so does sugar cane it has value after it is processed: so what is your point? What would happen if the cane farmers divercified. You would have no sugar or bagasse to sell. The cane farmers take a hit when sugar prices are low so why shouldn’t they not benefit some from the bagasse along with you. If you had a any sense you would have made that investment with the mind to include the farmers! Just another case of corporate greed!

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