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Oct 20, 2022

Sugar Cane Farmers Chides Prime Minister Briceño for Comments on Payment Formula

The Belize Sugar Industries and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association are now employing a mediator in their negotiations to finalize a commercial agreement. It appears to be a last dash of hope in a long-drawn-out process that has been fraught with adversity. But, how will this independent mediator fair off, when both sides are holding fast to differing positions on core issues? Today, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association called a press conference in Orange Walk. B.S.C.F.A. is not taking kindly to a comment of disapproval made by Prime Minister John Briceño on Monday with regards to its proposed adjustment to the current payment formula. News Five’s Paul Lopez was at the association’s headquarters in Orange Walk. He filed the following report.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the Belize Sugar Industries are preparing to enter into negotiations with the help of an independent mediator. Both parties are at loggerheads over B.S.C.F.A.’s proposal for compensation on bagasse, as well as the length of the commercial agreement under negotiation. The primary sticking point remains the association’s request to adjust the payment formula. B.S.C.F.A. is asking for sixty percent of the gross value from the sale of sugar. As it stands, members of the association are receiving sixty-five percent of the net value. But, farmers argue that they stand at a loss after these overhead expenses are deducted. However, on Monday Prime Minister John Briceño told reporters that B.S.C.F.A.’s new proposal seeks to transfer twenty million dollars from the factory to the farmers, which could ultimately run the company bankrupt.


John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño [File: October 17th, 2022]

“To be fair, no company will give up twenty million dollars, and I’ve been saying that to the Belize Cane Farmers Association, that if you give up twenty million dollars from revenues of what, they end up with about sixty million – you’re driving them to bankruptcy.”


The prime minister’s comments struck achord with the association. B.S.C.F.A. called a press conference today to address those remarks. Here is what Andrew Westby, the Chairman of the Committee of Management at B.S.C.F.A. said today.


Andrew Westby

Andrew Westby, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

“We are a bit of disappointment when the P.M. mentioned that no company wouldtransfer twenty million to us as cane farmers. I want to clarify that point that it is not a matter of transfer. It is a matter of reflecting the true cost that is being charged on overhead. We as farmers are spending sixty five percent of our money on those cost and those numbers are not disclosed to us in details in their added reports.”


…and on Tuesday, when we caught up with Shawn Chavarria, the Director of Finance at B.S.I., he confirmed the prime minister’s statement. Chavarria says B.S.C.F.A.’s proposal amounts to a twenty million dollar transfer of value, a shift which the company will not agree to.


Shawn Chavarria

Shawn Chavarria, Director of Finance, B.S.I.

“On the core matters, really B.S.C.F.A. has maintained its original position which is a twenty million transfer in value. We have said from the very beginning we can’t go with that. We are prepared to look at a formula that is simpler, but not one that disadvantages one side over the other.”


But, B.S.C.F.A. contends that if the real cost of these overhead charges from B.S.I. are reflected, Belizeans will understand why its farmers are at a disadvantage. According to Westby, B.S.C.F.A. rejected BSI’s recent audit statement because it did not reflect the real cost of the factory’s overhead expenses. Alfredo Ortega, the Executive Director at B.S.C.F.A., explained further.


Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Executive Director, B.S.C.F.A.

“We have seen for the past years since A.S.R. took over B.S.I. that they have managed to come every year on a different tone of putting different services. And, each service they apply is a cost, and then what happened, whenever they put this cost, and whenever they put this cost it comes as an overhead cost. And when they remove that, the balance that stays is what we divide sixty-five, thirty-five with them. So, whenever the portion of the division comes, you can recall the division given before, it comes up to almost twenty five to thirty percent of overhead expenses. So, the rest is being divided between us and them. Based on those division is where they came out it is a twenty million dollar value transfer. We didn’t bring those numbers. We said, for us and them, to be fair with the farmers, let us split at the gross.”


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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