Going back to the Government’s press release, the Office of the Prime Minister announced that BZE$2M worth of works on sugar roads that GOB promised, will commence immediately. That is very welcome news for the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA), which had intended to address the Prime Minister on the issue this week. Here is vice-chairman Alfredo Ortega.
“We will be sending a letter to the Prime Minister because at this point in time, our sugar roads are in bad conditions. some of them are much worse than they were about two weeks ago. We will be sending a letter to the Prime Minister whereby we will be asking him that yes we have reached some agreements that farmers have agreed that crop will start , but we need those roads to be fixed so that we can start to talk about a date to start the crop”.
One of the villages with the most pressing problems is the isolated village of Progresso, located in Corozal District but assigned to the Orange Walk Division of the BSCFA. Branch Chairman Hernan Villas told reporters on Sunday that farmers in the area were prepared to block the road if necessary to get the Government’s urgent attention.
“We have a lot of problem due to the papaya company, teh sugar roads are really in bad conditions and I have asked Mr. Vega if he can please assist us on that, or else I have contact with some cane farmers that we have to block the two entrances from the sugar road. So, if the cane farmers can’t take out their production, even the papaya will not take out their own production. So, he tell me that he is going to work on it and I tell him about the major road, and they tell me that they can’t touch it because it’s under a contract. But after that, we gone to the P.M. meetingand after the meeting, I spoke to Mr. Vega again about the road. So, he is going to work it through NEMO because that is an emergency. So, I tellah, well alright; the thing is that they work it”.
We were speaking with Villas during a sudden rain burst which hit the San Roman area and he told us that only 6 of 244 members of his branch attended the BSCFA’s emergency meeting on Sunday. Villas was asked Sunday whether, even if work started immediately as Government now proposes, the roads would be ready for the start of the season.
Farmers had proposed waiting until at least the 27th of January but Villas says his branch cannot afford so long a wait.
Mr. Hernan Villas: “They are going to take at least ten days to fix it a little bit more because years ago, we still had some bad roads, but we started crops, but I think that that is enough. We have to fight for what we want to because the problem that we are passing is that the government take off the money for the Progreso road. Long time we used to have a good road to Progreso. Now, he is supposed to know that we really need the road. We have a lot of production to take out from there and not only cane, but, like beans, melons and papayas and all of these things. So, not only cane farmers are using the roads”.
Villas says any blocking would only take place if there is no agreement with Government.