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Dec 24, 2013

2013-2014 sugarcane crop season remains in jeopardy

Tonight the 2013-2014 sugarcane crop season appears to be in real jeopardy. Both the B.S.I. and the BSCFA have returned to the discussion table, thanks to intervention by government, but there is still a fundamental sticking point. And that sticking point is a dozy. The BSCFA isn’t budging until B.S.I. signs an agreement to pay for bagasse. B.S.I. feels that it has done all it needs to do by simply agreeing to negotiate a bagasse payment. It might seem like nitpicking over semantics, but there’s a lot at stake and cane farmers want it clear, simple and signed. So that’s where it stands today – Christmas Eve and no compromise in sight. Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

On Monday cane-farmer representatives from all eighteen branches sat down with representatives from B.S.I.  This is the first time that both parties have come to the same table since September, but the issue is worth a great deal, and so any progress is hard-fought. The current sticking point is a commitment to pay for bagasse. B.S.I. says their word is enough, so there shouldn’t even be a sticking point over that.

 

Belizario Carballo

Belizario Carballo, Financial Controller, B.S.I.

“I don’t understand really because certainly we are at a bit of a loss there. As you know the Prime Minister intervened in the process of the negotiations and spoke and mediated with both parties. In the process, we communicated to the prime minister that we were prepared to concede and to agree to negotiate a payment for bagasse; and that was put in writing. Over the weekend, we wrote again to the BSCFA proposing this meeting for today; formalizing the request and stating very clearly that we are prepared to negotiate a payment for bagasse. So we, on our side, feel that we have not just conceded and communicated that concession, but that we have documented that in writing. So more than that, we are at bit of a loss so that is why we have asked the association to formalize their request to us in writing.”

 

B.S.I. feels that to even be agreeing to negotiate a payment for bagasse is a significant concession on the company’s part. But while B.S.I. feels that they have removed the obstacle creating the impasse in the industry, the BSCFA does not necessarily agree.

 

Belizario Carballo

“We are saying that we are prepared and we are agreeing to negotiate a payment for bagasse. What we can’t agree to is defining the outcome. We are agreeing to negotiate a payment for bagasse. A negotiation is a process and so we are conceding because before, as you know, our position was that bagasse is a waste—it doesn’t have value, it is not a byproduct, it is not an entitlement. By the memorandum of agreement, there is no obligation on B.S.I.’s part to make a payment. That was our position and it remains our position. But we are saying look; we are prepared to move from that position. We are conceding that we will negotiate with the association a payment for bagasse. But at the same time, we are making things clear that we are going to engage in negotiations without prejudice to our legal position, which has been accepted. That is not an issue anymore, but here is a issue of ensuring that there is more clarity perhaps on exactly what it is that we are agreeing to.”

 

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

Alfredo Ortega

“What we are looking from him is that we ask him that we need a more clear letter than what they have sent because he said that in the letter that they have sent the prime minister and what they have sent to us on Saturday that in there it is saying that there will be a payment for bagasse, which was not very clear. So what we discussed today is that they will be sending a letter to the association maybe by tomorrow where it will clearly state their position regards to the negotiation and payment for bagasse which in turn we will be taking to the farmers.”

 

And so that’s where it is right now – all tied up in semantics. Both parties seem to be at the point where neither wants to budge. And that’s bad news for the industry – since the BSCFA remains adamant that it will not discuss a crop season until an agreement is in hand.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Once we have a clear letter that indicates that there is a commitment in the negotiation on payment for bagasse, we can thereafter sit down and negotiate for a day to start the crop. Before that, we cannot say anything about the start of crop at this time.”

 

Reporter

“Just to clarify…is B.S.I. willing to put in writing—because they had asked for a legal and binding agreement to say yes B.S.I. is going to pay for bagasse?

 

Belizario Carballo

“I will just repeat what I have said. We have agreed to negotiate a payment for bagasse; that is our position.”

 

The hope is still for the crop to start in early January. If it goes beyond January fifteenth, it could spell disaster for farmers and factory. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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2 Responses for “2013-2014 sugarcane crop season remains in jeopardy”

  1. Concerned Belizean says:

    Lets look at it this way, BSI. currently our largest commercial establishment, invented BSI’s money to build Belcogen. they have pay the farmers for the cane. the bagasse is a waste product from the cane already sold to BSI. BSI is thinking instead of having to haul away the waste product, burn it and make affordable electricity from the country. if BSI/ASR is made to pay the the farmers for the Bagasse then the cost will go up. Now from this angle, do you think that it would be fear for the nations; business and house holds to pay for the garbage that they pick up and dispose of because they are sorting.

  2. ScubaMom says:

    This is the one time that I do not agree that the cane farmers should receive payment for the bagasse, that is pure greediness of the cane farmers. When will enough be enough for them. If I was BSI this is what I would do, place all the Bagasse back in the trucks of the cane farmers and have them take it home and do whatever they want with it, it is TRASH. BSI is doing great in finding a way to make waste become energy to improve the country. BSI give them their trash and say take it home and pay us to give you back your garbage. No need to go on the tables for any kind of dialoge

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