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May 22, 2023

B.S.C.F.A. Holds Special Meeting to Discuss Fairtrade Premiums

On Sunday in Corozal District, hundreds of cane farmers from across northern Belize gathered on the campus of Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico for a special meeting.  The meeting was convened by the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association to discuss the issue of Fairtrade premiums.  The B.S.C.F.A. claims that almost five million dollars in payments are being held back from the association and blames the withholding of those monies squarely on the miller.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano headed north yesterday and has the following story.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The membership of the largest growers organization in the north converged en masse on Sunday in Corozal.  The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association met to discuss an existing situation involving the payment of Fairtrade Premiums to over three thousand caneros.  Fairtrade International works with farmers and laborers of more than three hundred commodities, including sugar, to ensure that they earn a living income.  For a second year, payments are being withheld from the B.S.C.F.A.


Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Committee of Mgmt., B.S.C.F.A.

“We are the ones that haven’t received last year and haven’t received anything this year. We are not happy with it because as an organization, as the B.S.C.F.A., we complied with what is needed for us to get our benefits under Fairtrade Premiums.  We are certified and we have an agreement which we have signed that comes, well this year it comes to an end in November.  Last year, it came to an end at the end of July.  So we have compliance in both and it’s a pity that it was used as a weapon against us for not getting our premium.”


Alfredo Ortega is Chairman of the Committee of Management.  During yesterday’s meeting, he explained the issue that sugarcane farmers are facing with A.S.R./B.S.I.  According to Ortega, B.S.C.F.A.’s position on an entirely separate matter is being used by the miller to pressure the association.


Alfredo Ortega

“Because of the negotiation we had with B.S.I, they use that as a tool to really damage the B.S.C.F.A., not granting us that premium.”

It is a sentiment that is being echoed by Javier Keme, BSCFA’s Chief Financial Officer.


Javier Keme

Javier Keme, Chief Financial Officer, B.S.C.F.A.

“In our view, the B.S.C.F.A. has seen that it has been used as a mechanism or a tool to put pressure on B.S.C.F.A. to accept the conditions that are being put forward in the negotiation for a commercial agreement with the mill.  In the position of the buyer which is Tate & Lyle, they have said that it is two separate things.  The Fairtrade issue, the Fairtrade sales are different from the negotiations of the commercial agreement, but on the ground, we are feeling that it is not.  It is being used to put pressure.”


The Government of Belize recently enacted a piece of legislation that is on the books.  For many years, the regulation remained dormant until the Ministry of Agriculture decided to intervene in the matter.


Alfredo Ortega

“Now when we look to this new regulation, this regulation is working in combination with Fairtrade standards, on which the standards clearly bring out that in the system that works here in Belize, versus other countries, we have four associations which are delivering cane to only B.S.I., one mill.  So clearly, it puts B.S.I. as the conveyor where B.S.I. should be the one paying the farmers their premium because, as you know, here in Belize it’s B.S.I. that has the full authority in marketing sugar and all the derivatives from our sugarcane.”


The regulation alone, says Keme, is not the cure for the ongoing problem.  The B.S.C.F.A. is calling for complete transparency where the sale of sugar is concerned.


Javier Keme

“The regulation itself cannot solve all the disclosure needed in the industry.  I need to clarify this because it is being understood as the regulation is requiring B.S.I. to disclose their costs, to open their books, and that is not so.  What they need to disclose under this regulation is the volume of sugar being exported, to whom they export it, the price they are being paid for it.”


Similar requests, according to C.E.O. Oscar Alonzo, can be found elsewhere, including documents published by the United Nations.


Oscar Alonzo

Oscar Alonzo, Chief Executive Officer, B.S.C.F.A.

“What we are asking for is embedded in various international documents.  The United Nations Commission on Transnational Companies, for example, has there the very same thing that we are trying to get and we have gotten through the regulations which is transparency, predictability, the matter of fair competition, no discrimination.  All these things we have been suffering at the hands of ASR and Tate & Lyle.  They have been deliberately discriminating against our association because we refuse to sign a contract with their sister company of their liking, rather than trying to let us meet heads and solve the problem of the industry.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

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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