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Dec 30, 2021

Cane Farmers Camp Out; Voice Concerns over Sugar Crop Delays

In recent weeks, we have heard a lot from the executives at the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, government officials, and A.S.R./B.S.I. officials. But, at the center of the recent industry disputes are the farmers on the ground since they are the ones who plant, harvest, and deliver the cane to the mill for harvesting. It is also the farmers who are clamoring for an increase in payment for their produce, including an increase on bagasse. Some in the North have been camping outside A.S.R./B.S.I.’s compound since Tuesday night, blocking the entrances and exits as a form of protest. They are demanding that A.S.R./B.S.I. sign an interim commercial agreement for the current sugar crop that extends to the end of the crop. This would afford the farmers time to negotiate a new commercial agreement that would take effect in the 2022/2023 sugar crop season. News Five’s Paul Lopez got the cane farmer perspective this morning. 


Paul Lopez, Reporting

Sugar cane farmers in the North erected a temporary camp ground in front of A.S.R./B.S.I.’s compound. Both women and men found shade under trees and trucks. Refreshments, including breakfast and drinks were served from under a tent. Most of them have spent the last two nights out here.

Luke Martinez, President of the Belize National Trade Union Congress, was out in support of the cane farmers, up until ten p.m. on Wednesday night. He witnessed the conditions in which they slept.


Luke Martinez

Luke Martinez, President, N.T.U.C.B.

“It is very moving Paul. Cane Farmers were sleeping on the street. They were under the due. In fact, last night they were under the due. Today, they are under the sun, standing up for their rights, standing up for the rights of the cane farmers, and of course standing up for the people of Orange Walk and of course standing up for the people of Belize. That is what these people are doing here.”


And, if their bodies have not taken enough from the elements and hard pavements, this morning some farmers told us that they were prepared to camp at this location for the long haul. It is a sacrifice these farmers say they are willing to make in order to ensure they get their fair share from the mill, for their produce.


Jair Bustillos

Jair Bustillos, Cane Farmer

“We are here working years now with the cane, and every year things are getting more expensive. And, BSI is always trying to mask the cane farmers right. The prices they are giving to us are very bad, because eventually when we are working during the year, and we are barely making it, barely making it to fix our trucks and we are not getting any profit.”


Aurelio Tun

Aurelio Tun, Cane Farmer

“You see business has to maintain its own way to go. If I borrow money to put in the cane, and I can’t get back the money, then I can’t pay back. I am loosing you know. That is why we are trying to get a better understanding with the company, make he understand we are losing.”


Tun has been a farmer for sixty years. He knows very well that farmers often take out loans from financial institutions, loans they say they cannot afford to pay back while operating at a loss. An interesting perspective comes from the teachers of Orange Walk, including those teachers who are also cane farmers.


Otilio Munoz

Otilio Munoz, Teacher

“As a teacher my parents are also affected because they are waiting for this industry to start. Kids are affected. They have to pay their fees. So as a teacher in my school, I will be facing tremendous challenges from my parents. And, I have to put myself in their shoes and try to understand them because the industry has not started.”


Lizbeth Carrillo

Lizbeth Carrillo, Teacher

“When it comes to being a teacher, we have been commenting here, we are really worried about what is going to happen in January when school open, because many of our parents are cane farmers. And, if this is not resolved, what will happen to their revenue? What will happen with the money they usually get back after cutting and delivering the cane? So as a teacher I am affected and as a cane farmer I am also affected.”


The future of the industry is also at stake.  Those over fifty account for the majority of the cane farmer population.  While some of their children are staying with the family business, many others are looking for employment elsewhere to increase their income. There are also farmers currently in the industry who are prepared to diversify their production.


Felipe Tzul, Teacher/Cane Farmer

“Well, as a farmer right, at this point we might be looking at diversifying, although it has been encouraged many times. The hemp, if they allow us to get that concession of producing hemp, I think that will be a next good option, not only for me but for many farmers.”


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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