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Nov 26, 2014

What’s the Latest on the Sugar Impasse? B.S.C.F.A. Gives an Update

On November fifteenth, cane farmers from eighteen branches of the B.S.C.F.A. met and issued an ultimatum to the Sugar Industry Control Board. In a nutshell, the farmers had two requests – one, that they recruit an independent expert to evaluate the proposals for bagasse payment and secondly, that they push the idea of an interim agreement between B.S.I. and B.S.C.F.A. so that the start of crop would not be delayed. That meeting concluded on Tuesday night, and today, the B.S.C.F.A. spoke on the meeting.  News Five’s Mike Rudon has the following story, or at least the B.S.C.F.A.’s side of the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The meeting promised by the S.I.C.B. was held on Tuesday, and included participation from the B.S.C.F.A., B.S.I./A.S.R., the S.I.C.B. and the Ministry of Agriculture. The sole item on the agenda was the dismantling of the impasse. Farmers currently have one point four seven million tons of cane in the field ready to be processed. There is a real sense of urgency because any delay would result in a loss for the farmers. After the meeting, S.I.C.B. Chairman Gabriel Martinez spoke briefly, but it sounded like things had almost worked out okay.


Gabriel Martinez

Voice of: Gabriel Martinez, Chairman, Sugar Industry Control Board

“All parties agreed that we should start crop, no delay of the crop. And they also agree that we need to carry on the process of going back to negotiations on the issue of the starting of the crop. And I must say that that means a lot; that means a lot of the industry.”


But does it, really? From what we’re hearing today, it doesn’t seem that anybody’s position has changed much. B.S.I. maintains that the B.S.C.F.A. is obstinate and holding the industry at ransom. The B.S.C.F.A. holds that B.S.I./A.S.R. is being stubborn and arrogant, and is holding the industry at ransom. The B.S.C.F.A. is still pushing for an interim agreement, as it has been. And their position still stands that the crop can start under said interim agreement.


Oscar Alonzo, Chief Executive Officer, B.S.C.F.A.

“They have indicated that they need to consult with their principals to let us know if and when we can negotiate next week. We hope that it is positive because we know that we can resolve it that way. But we had told the Sugar Industry Board that we will act on what our membership has said. If we want to start the crop, if it means with an interim agreement, we need to start it. We will not put into effect the action that the members have started, which is to hold a national social protest to let the authorities understand that this is an industry of national importance and B.S.I. should not be preventing the crop from beginning because it wants an agreement according to its own criteria.”


Alonzo also claims that B.S.I./A.S.R. seems to be holding out in the hope that farmers and reaping groups will sign individual contracts, thus effectively closing out the Association. That claim certainly hasn’t changed.


Oscar Alonzo

“We feel that B.S.I. is hoping that their approach will have some effect because they had given until the twenty-eight of this month for farmers to go in and sign the contract that they have been offering them. This contains the same clauses that we are saying. They are saying that they are giving the farmers up to the twenty-first to submit suggestions for them to amend the contract and see if that will be amenable to the cane farmers to sign individually or by their own associations, but we feel that that may not be changed. So it is a matter, I think they are still on that approach and they are trying to see if that then has results then they will more or less get the assurance that they will not have to sign an agreement with us.”


And with that said, the B.S.C.F.A. continues to solidify its position, in an attempt to weaken B.S.I.’s position, which Alonzo says remains exactly the same – that they are not prepared to sign an interim agreement at this time.


Oscar Alonzo

Oscar Alonzo

“Our farmers are still solid, and we’re getting increasing support from other organizations in the country. Yesterday we met with members of ROC and they have expressed their solidarity with us and they are prepared to support us in whatever action we decide to take. On Sunday we will be having our annual general meeting; we hope that by Friday we can get some feedback through the Sugar Industry Board as to B.S.I.’s intention to meet with us next week and try to resolve this matter through negotiations. And further actions will be recommended by our membership on Sunday as to how we proceed next week. But we want the crop to start. The tentative date of December eight is a good date.”


At the risk of invoking a bolt of lightning, we note that Alonzo also claimed that God has possibly decided to enter the equation, since B.S.I. doesn’t seem willing to do what needs to be done to get the crop started.


Oscar Alonzo

“What we did achieve yesterday is to set a date. There is a date that has been set which is the eighth of December as the ideal date to start the crop. If we don’t start the crop on that date, we run the risk that the cane that is out on the field, a substantial portion will be left. And the weather is favouring us. The weather has been good; it has changed recently now. I don’t know if God is upset with the way B.S.I. has been behaving with us now. It seems to be the same thing. Last year, whenever B.S.I. starts to stick to its ways, God sends down the rain and so. But we see a heavy downpour yesterday; maybe it is an omen.”


So with all that said and not much seeming changed, we await the start of negotiations, maybe, in the next week or so. Mike Rudon for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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