Prime Minister hopes for peace in the sugar industry


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Posted: Tuesday December 21, 2021. 5:57 PM CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Belize government is caught between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries Limited / American Sugar Refining (BSI / ASR).

Already suspected of playing favorites, the government must walk a tightrope between appeasing the big investor ASR, and maintaining the support and the vote of the cane planters who constitute the backbone of the northern constituencies.

And so, in another event on Monday, Prime Minister John Briceño said the government was an “honest broker” and was looking for a compromise.

But the Prime Minister also spoke of a personal and emotional connection to the industry which he says made him a Prime Minister: knows, perhaps thanks to the sugar industry that I am probably Prime Minister today ‘ hui, because my father was working with BSI and when George Price negotiated at the time with Tate and Lyle to sell the sugar fields to the Belizeans, my father saw a wonderful opportunity and he encouraged my uncles to be able to take advantage of this opportunity and they take advantage of it to be able to invest and be able to send us to school, to 6th and me to university. I think I was one of the first in my family to graduate from university, and like me, there are thousands of us in the North who benefit from the sugar industry and we need to be careful to protect the interests of farmers. Now I say this but I have to add that we also need to protect the interests of the ASR / BSI investors who have come to Belize not because they like us but because they want to make money and that. is fine as long as we don’t take advantage of our farmers.

Clearly easier said than done, but the PM went on to suggest that it was BSI / ASR that was “resisting” on the issue of better payments and that in a negotiation “The two sides will not like everything. But, at least, we could have a working relationship between the farmers, the BSI, and the government. “

Prime Minister Briceño further stated that it was important for him that the cañeros remain owners of the industry, comparing it to what has happened in tourism: “Tourism has developed by leaps and bounds. . But what happened to us at the Belizeans? We have become the cooks. We wash the dishes. We clean the swimming pools. We’re gonna fix the beds. We are not the real owners. It could be argued that yes, it takes a lot of money to invest in the tourism industry. We could discuss it. But with sugar, we own the land, we own the cane, and we have to make sure the Belizeans own the sugar industry. “

The Prime Minister is planning a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and his colleague cane producer Jose Abelardo Mai this week on the issue.

Regarding the implications of the delay, the PM felt that the weather conditions are not optimal for the harvest, as with the recent rains the cane will be waterlogged and carry a lot of mud, which is not acceptable. He also hinted that the government needed time to smooth out the sugar routes which are also affected by weather conditions and that the result would be better cane quality and production.

BSI / ASR would start the season with one in-line boiler, processing 3,500 tonnes of cane per day, then grow to almost 7,000 tonnes with two boilers in a matter of weeks. The miller made sure to shed light on BSCFA’s demand for production consistency, noting that he had increased production by 20 percent with additions and improvements to the mill since arriving in Belize.

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Rachel J. Bradford