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Dec 16, 2021

Cane Farmers Air Concerns Ahead of Monday Season Opening

The sugar crop season in Northern Belize is set to begin on Monday, but the farmers are still at odds with the sugar mill.  Even more concerning for sugar cane farmers at this time; is the prospect that tens of thousands of tons of sugarcane could remain in the fields at the end of the season. The outlook is frightening because it could spell thousands of dollars in losses for farmers. News Five’s Paul Lopez attended a press conference called by the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association in Orange Walk Town today.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Over one point three million tons of sugar cane currently sits in fields across Northern Belize ready to be harvested.  But, sugar cane farmers are worried that the only sugar mill in their area does not have the capacity to process all this cane.


Alfredo Ortega, Chairman Orange Walk Division

Alfredo Ortega

“For many years that ASR has taken over BSI, they came in with a platform that from since 2017, they came in 2012, 2013 they started, and they told us that for five years they should increase the milling capacity at the mill, for the production of sugar at the mill. And, we have reached 2021, almost at 2022 and nothing has happened. Now, they came out with this that they will be starting crop with three hundred thousand five hundred for the next five weeks, until they commission the other boiler to start working. What will happen, it will be a great sacrifices on the side of the farmers, the cane cutters and the drivers.”


As a consequence, some one hundred thousand tons of cane could potentially be left in the field at the end of the season in mid July of 2022.


Andy Westby

Andy Westby, Chairman Committee of Management, BSCFA

“That is what makes farmers worried, because they have invested significantly in the cane field. As how the crop is beginning, we don’t have an assurance that we will be able to deliver all our cane. Because, as you remember, last year we began in the middle of January to the twenty eighth of July, we delivered an amount of approximately one point two million tons. Now, we have one point three. Right now that the crop will begin, this three thousand four hundred will be for the next four weeks. So, financially, it will affect the farmers because you will be spending more money and you will be making less.”

Essentially, if it comes to this, a decision will have to be made as to which farmer’s investment will be left in the field, or how these loses  will be divided. It is even more concerning, because as it turns out, farmers say they have been operating at a loss.


Oscar Alonso, CEO, BSCFA

Oscar Alonso

“We as farmers have an average cost of production per ton of cane at seventeen to seventeen fifty per ton, each ton. That is producing Raton cane. In producing plant cane, it will go a little bit higher that the seventeen dollars and fifteen cents per each ton. Then, we have an average of thirteen dollars for the harvest, which is cut, load and transport. That is already forty seven dollars and fifty cents per ton. Plus we cover sixty five percent of the thirty three point two million that they deducted in the cost of exporting the sugar. So if you add the seventeen fifty in the field, you add the thirty dollars in the harvest, and you add the seventeen dollars, we need at least, to be surviving, to be even, sixty five dollars per ton. That is our cost of production. That is our reality. Last year we ended with fifty four dollars and fifty six cents. So that is why I say, yeah and we invested sixty five dollars on it.”


What farmers receive from the mill is influenced by global prices and market shares. But, any discussion about increasing Belize’s world market share will also include a discussion about possibly increasing production. Farmers are now saying they need an alternative to ASR/BSI’s milling capacity.

Oscar Alonso

“That is one of the biggest limitations we have been repeating from 2014, we have been repeating this from 2014, which is when we exceeded the mill and the farmers started to stay with over productions in their fields. And, as Mister Alonso is saying, the investments being done in millions, yes we could appreciate that, but it is not done in the areas where it would solve the problem of this overproduction that we have right now. So then, this poses a big bottle neck to the industry as a whole. That is something that we have mentioned to the government. Also, once more we need an alternative to it. If we have always been saying that the mill is not investing where we can see that the production is being processed, then what is the sense of having big warehouses if the production is standing on the fields?”


Reporting For News Five, I am Paul Lopez.

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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