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Jun 15, 2023

2022-2023 Sugar Crop Comes to a Close

The 2022-2023 sugar crop officially came to a close today. The figures are almost finalized, but the preliminary reports do not look good. The Belize Sugar Industries Limited says there was a thirty-five percent decrease in sugarcane deliveries for the season, when compared to seasons past. This has directly impacted the quantity of sugar the mill produced for the season. Climate change is one of the main culprits, as well as the destructive nature of the froghopper insects. And, a new challenge has arisen for the industry, a shortage of cane cutters. Due to a combination of intense heat and an increase in the minimum wage, cane cutters are transitioning into new industries like tourism. News Five’s Paul Lopez reports.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

The Belize Sugar Industries Limited held a ceremony this morning on its compound at Tower Hill to commemorate the closure of the 2022-2023 sugar crop.


Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, Country Manager/Vice President, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“It is always a great moment for the whole industry when we come to the end of another crop. There is an old adage in this industry that every crop is different. This one has been different in a number of ways. But, as always the number one thing to get across today is a big thank you to everyone in the industry, the cane cutters, the farmers, everyone working in this factory, seven hundred people. This is what brings the economic life blood to the north of the country.”


According to B.S.I.’s Country Manager, it was a disappointing year for sugarcane production in the north.


Mac McLachlan

“The actual amount of cane is very disappointing. It is going to be less than a million tons o cane. You will recall that in previous years, especially prior to 2019’s drought, it was quite normal for us to receive over one point million tons or over one point three. I think the most we have milled is one point three. So, one million really is a drop. On a more positive side I think the investments we have made in the mill have demonstrated the mill’s capability this year. We didn’t have any major issues in the mill. In fact we had to slow down a lot of the times to match cane supply coming in. We really could have been through this crop a couple of weeks ago.”


In total, the mill will produce approximately one hundred and four thousand tons of sugar from the sugarcane delivered, about fifty thousand tons less than the mill’s annual average sugar production. But, a new and significant challenge presented itself in the industry during this crop season. There is now a shortage of sugarcane cutters. Vladimir Puck, the Chairman of the Sugarcane Producers Association, explained.


Vladimir Puck

Vladimir Puck, Chairman, Corozal Sugarcane Producers Association

“That’s one of the most challenges that we are having this year and it is something very new and something we did not expect. The heat is one of the major factors. But also we need to sit down as an industry to analyze the reality. I can say for my community where I reside, the tourism industry affected a little because many migrated to the cayes, due to the change of the wages instead of doing two hundred dollars under the sun, well they prefer going to the free-zone and other places nuh and also the construction of the road. I see every now and then they are there, even as flag men. But we need to sit down as an industry and analyze it and very quickly before the start of a crop.”


Olivia Avilez, the Cane Farmers Relations Manager at ASR/BSI, also raised the shortage of labor as a major concern, during the media’s discussion with her this morning. She agreed that the industry must collaborate to find a solution to the problem.


Olivia Avilez

Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmers Relations Manager, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“With cane cutters we as an industry we have to do a deep dive into what it is that we can do better. How can we improve labor conditions? We are looking at hotter weather conditions at the time. The cane cutters don’t want to cut in those conditions. So we have to look at shade, things such as hydration and rest. This is something implemented all over the region. It is a routine which cane cutters have to take a rest during cutting. They have to drink water, enough water and not just soft drink. In fact soft drink is not the best thing. And they have to take a rest and that improves production on the ground.”


Vladimir Puck

“Shading also, but it is a huge investment. We have our funds from Fairtrade but if we invest only in shading we have already done a little study on it, it is very very costly right.”


On a positive note, there has been a significant increase in the quantity of sugar being exported to the CARICOM market.


Mac McLachlan

“We have been maximizing our production of added value sugars where we get a higher price for those sugars in the market. We have really been focusing on the CARICOM market this year. Four years ago we were shipping two thousand tons into CARICOM, this year we were aiming at twenty thousand.”


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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