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Mar 18, 2015

Santander Poised to Commence Sugar Milling in Belize

If you heard about the Santander Group before, the parent company of Green Tropics, it may have had to do with dredging within the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary or the alleged spraying of crops in the Valley of Peace area. Today, it is a very different story because Santander invited the media to tour its impressive facilities. The group is planting sugar cane on a vast expanse of land and at the same time it is setting up its own modern milling facilities with state of the art equipment. But will it compete with the millers up north? News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.   


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

For decades the sugar industry has been the lifeblood of the north, the primary means of income for cane farmers in the Orange Walk and Corozal districts.  The large-scale production of sugar also accounts for an individual percentage of Belize’s gross domestic product.  Much of that success is owed to an ideal climate that is suitable for planting and cultivating the perennial true grass.  While ASR/B.S.I. has for many years enjoyed a monopoly in the established market, 2016 will see the introduction of another player.  Enter the Santander Group.


Beverly Burke

Beverly Burke, Santander Representative, Belize

“We have approximately twenty thousand acres.  We’re just on twenty thousand acres which consist of two major functions.  One: we’re putting in sugar fields and behind me is where we’re building a factory so that we can actually mill the sugarcane.”


The entire operation is a significant investment for the Santander Group, a Spanish multinational that has decided on establishing a presence in Belize.


Edgar Hernandez

Edgar Hernandez, Director, Santander Group

“We feel that it’s a great development opportunity because this comes also, this tags along also with the feasibility of banks, local banks, putting together also a financial structure in order to support the viability, the economic viability of the group and also brings international banks and highlights Belize as a destination for financial support in order to develop private sector businesses.  So we see this as a milestone that will help us continue to develop a project that right now we’re foreseeing to start in 2016 and 17, up to ten thousand tons of grinding capacity and after that we foresee growth of up to twenty-five thousand tons of grinding capacity.  So we are committed to Belize.”


That dedication has seen approximately ninety million U.S. dollars pumped into the project thus far, as well as the employment of roughly eight hundred men and women, a majority of whom are Belizeans.


Beverly Burke

“Five hundred and eighty-five workers are Belizeans and we’re doing so many functions that they are basically in every aspect, from the planting aspect to the maintenance to the equipment operator to the actual building of the factory.  We have some local welders, we have a couple local contractors as well.  So they do make up the majority of the workforce here at Santander, I myself, you know.  It’s all with a focus to get in everything ready for 2016 basically.”


An important aspect of that preparation is the building of the mill which will include a state of the art boiler imported from India.


Javier Fernandez

Javier Fernandez, Director, Santander Group

“The boiler comes together with the generators for the energy.  Basically we bought the boiler from India, they brought it here and we’re assembling it.  They have a contractor that specializes only in the boiler assembly.  He’s been doing it in the region for the past couple of years so he’s very knowledgeable.  So basically they are building the boiler and we put one mirror employee from Belize next to the contractor employee to learn everything from zero.  Basically, from zero up.  So they’ve been assembling.  This boiler is around sixty percent finished, once it’s finished it’s going to generate all the energy necessary to maintain all the operation here and also for the selling of the energy to the local grid.”


SS Energy, a subsidiary of the group, has been green lighted by the Public Utilities Commission to enter negotiations with Belize Electricity Limited to provide alternative energy to the national grid.  The main focus at the moment however, is on sugar production.


Edgar Hernandez

“Up to now we have invested ninety million U.S. dollars and by the end of the year we’re going to be investing up to a hundred and fifty million dollars in order to make this whole business feasible.”


Isani Cayetano

“In terms of competing against an established company, a multinational such as ASR who has, at this point, a huge market share for sugar [exportation] in Belize.  How does Santander intend to be viable in this market?”


Edgar Hernandez

“We really don’t see us competing.  I think we really are going about our business.  It’s really, we are managing our business in a way that we are exporting our production, we’re really exporting our production so we’re not competing for that sugar locally.  We’re not competing with them and we see them, we need to work in Belize in order to be able, together in order to develop infrastructure.  One of the things that we see as a challenge is to be able to produce the proper aggregated capabilities in order to maintain a sustainable growth.  So I think we need to transfer together technologies and know-how for being more efficient in the production of sugar.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


The Santander Group has been operating in Belize since 2008.

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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1 Response for “Santander Poised to Commence Sugar Milling in Belize”

  1. Jason says:

    About time this is starting-government should support people and projects like this rather than all the infighting and crab mentality up north. I don’t see Barrow doing anything for this

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