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Jan 14, 2014

Caneros prepare for cane delivery on Monday

The sugar-cane standoff is officially at an end. Late Monday evening representatives of both the B.S.C.F.A. and B.S.I. met in Orange Walk and signed a seven point interim agreement. That agreement will provide guidelines for the 2013-2014 crop…pending the penning of a new agreement governing future crops. It’s been a long, hard road getting to this point, and there is hope that the worst is in the past, and the future will be bright. For more than five thousand cane-farmers in the north, that will all depend on whether they get a payment for bagasse. Only time, and intense negotiations, will tell…but for now, both the B.S.C.F.A. and the B.S.I. are prepared to focus on what lies ahead – a difficult crop which is months delayed, and negatively impacted by incessant rains and dilapidated roads. Mike Rudon was in Orange Walk until late Monday, and has an update on what lies ahead. Here’s that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

At five o’clock Monday evening, after one last perusal of the seven point interim agreement, representatives of B.S.I. and the B.S.C.F.A. signed on…which takes the situation from a stand-off to a stand-down. The crop usually starts in November, so there has already been a two month delay. But both parties are looking ahead to Monday, January twentieth, when the 2013-2014 sugar-cane crop will officially, and finally, get underway.

 

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

“It’s very important for us that we have both signed onto this interim agreement and I think that this gives us the roadmap for future negotiations and also for the crop to start.”

 

Joey Montalvo, C.E.O., B.S.I.

“We agreed just now that the twentieth is going to be the start date. That’s next Wednesday at ten o’clock in the morning. So we’re all working towards that. We are ready to start, the mill is ready. The fields, well that is a more difficult challenge because of the road conditions but they are going to see how best they can sort that out with the government that has committed to repairing the roads in earnest.”

 

That commitment by Government – or more accurately, their keeping that commitment and treating the matter with urgency, is crucial to the crop. Sugar roads in some branches are impassable, and if farmers can’t deliver cane to the mill, then it negates the accomplishment of actually getting to this point. Government, in a release issued Monday, speaks of an immediate allocation of two million dollars to fix sugar roads. It’s a good start, but not exactly enough.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“I think that was a figure the Prime Minister gave us when we had a meeting with him, but I think at that time it was a very good portion, but since the rains that have fallen from that time until now, it will be a little bit more but I think that if they do an effective work with it and really push forward in certain areas I think that two million can do good, but I think we will need a little more because of the situation that the sugar roads in all branches are in bad condition.”

 

The matter of the sugar roads, and other critical matters like the traditional fuel subsidy for farmers and preferential treatment for licensing of cane trucks, will now be squarely in the hands of the Prime Minister.

 

Alfredo Ortega

“Letters will be sent to the Prime Minister. We were waiting to finalize the signing of the interim agreement, so the C.E.O. will be sending the letter to the PM today. We have sent letters from the ending of November in regards to the licensing and for fuel subsidy to the farmers and we will sending it back today with a copy of the interim agreement and we are also sending a letter to the Prime Minister in regards to the fixing of the sugar roads.”

 

So now all the talking is done, and it is time to work to save the crop and the industry. Both parties are working on ‘good faith’ terms, which make for a somewhat uneasy partnership. The B.S.C.F.A. has in good faith committed to a crop without interruption, and the B.S.I. has in good faith committed to pay farmers for bagasse.

 

Joey Montalvo

Joey Montalvo

“We never played games. I think it was very clear from the start that we said that we would consider…we would negotiate the quantum and then commit to a payment. I think there has been a great misunderstanding…there has been some confusion but I think that time will tell where we are going to be toward the end of crop and once we have determined the quantum there will be a payment.”

 

The negotiations to arrive at that payment will be carried out in tandem with the crop.

 

Joey Montalvo

“I can tell you it hasn’t been easy, but I always think that there are ways of getting some sort of value in obstacles. Challenges sometimes come around and they are disguised as obstacles but you can see opportunities out of that. I think that what has occurred here is an opportunity for both the field and the mill to move forward together.”

 

B.S.I. C.E.O. Joey Montalvo confirmed that BSI has carried out its own testing of the cane, and are satisfied that the quality will be acceptable, despite the negative impact by the incessant rains. Reporting for News Five, I am Mike Rudon.

 

So come Monday, trucks from Corozal and Orange Walk should be lined up at the factory to deliver sugar-cane. The B.S.C.F.A. says that by Wednesday, they should be delivering up to five thousand tons of product, which is the minimum required by B.S.I. for effective milling.

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