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Jan 7, 2021

The Cyclical Issue of Sugar Roads

Today, News Five’s reporter Duane Moody and cameraman Kenroy Michael headed north to the sugar belt to highlight an issue that has cost the government millions of dollars annually. While it is expected that the sugar roads are in poor condition at this time of year due to the yearly rains, this year, it is compounded by the effects of hurricanes Eta and Iota. Here’s that report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The sugar crop season is once again experiencing delays, and cane delivery to the mills at Tower Hill will come to a temporary halt effective today at seven p.m. until another start date is determined. There are multiple factors to consider, but one that has been a recurrent issue is sugar roads. Between four to nine million dollars are spent annually on sugar roads, which are almost always in a deplorable state, due to rains, at the start of a crop season. So it came as no surprise for the 2021 season. Its a cyclical issue that affects all stakeholders in the industry – from the harvesting and extraction of the sugary bark to its milling.

 

Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, VP, International Relations, A.S.R./B.S.I

“In fairness also to the farmers, it has not been easy, especially after the rains, to access those fields and also to even before the rain to get the sugar out from low land areas that are still very wet from previous rain events. And also because of the issue of sugar roads which is really a major problem. It is not the main road. It is the feeder roads coming out of the fields and that type of thing.”

 

Hermilo Moralez is one of the larger sugar cane farmers from San Estevan Village in Orange Walk. That village alone provides approximately one hundred and eighty thousand tonnes of sugar cane to the mills, but accessing their fields for harvesting has been challenging. Large craters and pools of water can be seen along a seven-mile stretch where acres of the ready-to-harvest product remains. Along the dirt road, piles of harvested cane are telltale signs of the struggle for trucks to traverse the area without losing product. Moralez says it costs farmers money.

 

Hermilo Moralez

Hermilo Moralez, Cane Farmer

“The condition of the roads is terrible, getting to the fields is a problem and getting our product, our cane out. In fact, we are being stuck in the sugar road so you can image the problem we have.   I think we are tired of the cosmetics. We really want these roads to be properly repaired and I think that would help economically because as we can see, every year, they are fixing roads, fixing roads, doing the same thing over and over. So if they are properly fixed, I think that would last for a long time.”

 

Duane Moody

“Have you been able to estimate the cost that it adds to you in terms of harvesting and all of that?”

 

Hermilo Moralez

“When it comes to fuel, maybe we use twice what we normally use or more than twice. Just for this week, my God. That is what we are doing right now; payday is tomorrow and so that is what I am estimating, and I am trying to budget.”

 

It’s an issue that Orange Walk South area rep and now Minister of Agriculture, Jose Mai had harped on even before the P.U.P. assumed office. He, along with Infrastructure Minister Julius Espat, confirmed that more money would be invested in the rehabilitation of sugar roads in the north, but it will take some time.

 

Jose Mai

Jose Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise 

“More money will be pumped in to the sugar roads than what was pumped under the last administration. I will not tell you the exact amount of money; I cannot tell you it at this time because I do not have it. I can assure you this.”

 

Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure and Housing 

“The truth is we cant fix twelve years of neglect in two months. That is a fact.  I have been in communication with the Ministry of Agriculture, and yes we have already started work in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. We have spent up to this point approximately half a million dollars in Corozal and approximately half a million dollars already in Orange Walk. But half a million dollars in sugar roads is insignificant. We have culverts that have now broken up, we have roads that have been washed away. You are talking about hundreds of miles of sugar roads.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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