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Jun 10, 2014

Still no resolution to the bagasse issue between B.S.I. and farmers

The 2013/2014 sugar cane crop season was two months delayed due to a bagasse impasse. Both B.S.I. and the B.S.C.F.A., representing cane-farmers, agreed to start the crop in good faith, with a commitment that the quantum of bagasse payment to farmers would be finalized by the end of the season. That season is now winding up and there is no resolution in sight. Despite ongoing negotiations both sides have been unable to reach anywhere near an acceptable compromise. Mike Rudon has an update on bagasse, and on a crop season which, against all odds, was better than anticipated.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

With the close of the crop season looming, the B.S.I. and B.S.C.F.A. met on Friday to present their positions on a payment for bagasse. Both are negotiating in good faith. Both say the matter needs to be resolved. But there all agreement ends.


Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association

“When we met at the meeting it was the same thing, it was the same issue. So we went through and we finalized the meeting about midday and we didn’t reach an agreement. So what the B.S.C.F.A. will be doing now is calling a general meeting with the farmers to present to the farmers what we have at this time. It is true that B.S.I. has presented that they are willing to pay the farmers fifty-one cents per ton. It’s better than a no which they had before, but based on the information from our experts the price should be high than that. And that is what we are looking for, a just price for our cane.”


In the early days of negotiations, cane farmers had placed their proposal of ten dollars per ton of cane on the table. So fifty-one cents per ton of cane isn’t even close to the compromise that was envisioned.


Alfredo Ortega

“We don’t see in the near future that we will finalize this negotiation with them based on the history that has transpired during that course of time. We will be presenting this situation to the farmers so that the farmers have a clear understanding of how we have reached to this point in time and from thereafter listen to the farmers and see what decision will be taken at the general meeting and from there we will move based on the roadmap coming out of that general meeting.”


In the early days of the impasse, there were talks of a strike, but Ortega says that isn’t feasible at this time because about three hundred thousand tons of cane still in the fields, and farmers need to get that in to the factory to get paid. Even without the bagasse cloud hanging over the heads of farmers, there are challenges on the ground that are hampering delivery of cane to the mill.


Alfredo Ortega

“As you know we had about eight inches of rainfall last week in the north and also our situation is the roads. The road to transport those materials from the field to the mill because there were many sugar roads that were not treated at the beginning of crop and even right now they have not been treated so those place a challenge to the farmers who have their fields on those roads.”


But bagasse disagreement, early rains, bad roads and other challenges aside, the crop season has turned out much better than was anticipated by stakeholders.


Alfredo Ortega

“We have to recognize that B.S.I. is working quite well this year and we have delivered since we started the twenty-fourth of January up to the end of May we managed to deliver a little bit over nine hundred thousand tons of cane which has produced one hundred and one tons of sugar. So that is very good for us because it demonstrates that both sides are doing good. The farmers are doing a sacrifice in regards to the material they are taking to the mill.”


According to Ortega while production will not surpass last year’s figures, he expects that farmers will be able to deliver more than one million tons of cane by the time the season closes. Mike Rudon for News Five.


There is no word yet on when the general meeting will be called, but it will be sooner rather than later.

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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1 Response for “Still no resolution to the bagasse issue between B.S.I. and farmers”

  1. Teddy steinway says:

    They put up $10 a ton when they knew that $4 a ton was fair. How dishonest is that?
    The first principle of a fair negotiation is to bargain in good faith.

    Mr Ortega will do well in Belizean politics.

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