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Feb 17, 2014

First shipment of sugar sails to England

The 2014 sugar crop was delayed for two months this year due to issues over the payment of bagasse between the Belize Sugar cane Farmers Association and the Belize Sugar Industries.  The mills at Tower hill finally got cranking on the twenty-fourth of January and today the first shipment of sugar was loaded on to the San Remo Two en route to England. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was on hand and files this report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The saccharine aroma of brown sugar, as we near the San Remo II, is unmistakable.  It is a smell that permeates the air onboard the bulk carrier.  At approximately four and half miles offshore, final efforts are underway to export the first shipment of sugar to the United Kingdom during this crop season.

 

Dale Waters

Dale Waters, Stevedore

“I’m a wench man, a crane operator.  [I operate] the crane up there and that’s to do the loading of the vessel, taking the sugar from out of the barge to put in the hatch of the ship.”

 

It is a round-the-clock operation that sees several gangs of stevedores working in tandem with employees of Belize Sugar Industries Ltd., as well as crew members on the Liberian vessel.  The ship has been moored off the coast of Belize since the beginning of the month; its hull being filled with a little under nine thousand metric tons of grain.

 

Damian Gough

Damian Gough, Marketing Manager, B.S.I.

“You’ll have a ship like this here in port for about two weeks, that’s what it would have taken us to load this one at eight thousand, five hundred tons.  It’s done that way because there isn’t really another alternative for handling sugar here in Belize.  We don’t, as you all know, we don’t have a properly functioning deepwater port whereby you can have the ship go directly to the pier head.  You can have maybe a storage terminal at the port that you can then use conveyors or other mechanical functions to do the loading.  And so, that in and of itself, slows the process down doing it this way.  This process is unique to sugar handling only in Belize.”

 

This inaugural consignment follows a lengthy delay during which sugar cane farmers were at odds with BSI/ASR over proceeds of the sale of bagasse.  Notwithstanding the drawn-out impasse, the industry is in full swing.  What you are seeing is the culmination of an extensive process which begins in the cane fields of northern Belize.

 

Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmers Relations, B.S.I.

Olivia Avilez

“I think that it is important for the whole nation to see what the sugar process is and this is the final step after the whole process.  You know, you have the sugar cane being grown in the fields by the caneros, they bring it into the factory.  They have a whole milling process and operation there.  It leaves Orange Walk on the tugboats, then it gets here.  You’re seeing the tugboats and how it’s being offloaded from the tugboat into the ship.”

 

The mast of the massive freighter flies the Belizean flag.  On the deck below, a group of men works feverishly, using a giant crane to which a clamshell grab is fastened, in order to load the idle vessel.  This yawning iron jaw hovers dangerously above, guided by rope between the ship and the adjoining tug.  Dale Waters is one of several operators.  He’s been stevedoring for the past twenty-four years.

 

Dale Waters

“It goes a long way when you are really dedicated and have a commitment to the job. I guess you have to appreciate nature.  You have to appreciate nature because that has its challenges too, especially when the weather shifts, stormy, it’s windy, it’s cold and you don’t want to leave your warm bed.  So again, as I said, it comes back to dedication of the job and a love for it.”

 

…and a passion for the job is also what has the caneros back in the fields and employees of B.S.I. milling several thousand tons of sugar daily.  The season, says Damian Gough, despite its late start, is doing well.

 

Damian Gough

“Production has been going well.  The mill is functioning well with little to no delays.  The cane farmers are doing their part in terms of meeting the demand requirements at the mill despite the obstacles that may be posed with the roads and so on, they are doing their part.  The cane quality is, at this time, the same milling date in last crop, we are actually a little better in terms of quality and so all of this bodes well for us to remain positive, looking ahead to the remainder of the crop.  It bodes well that we should have a pretty successful season provided we can get all the cane into the mill before the next rainy season comes around again.”

 

The San Remo II sails for London on Tuesday, for delivery of its cargo to the European market. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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