The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association is still at odds with the Belize Sugar Industry and with no clear resolution. On Wednesday things were looking even worse for the BSCFA. In a letter dated Tuesday the 26th of August, Tate & Lyle Sugars, a member of the ASR Group of companies, sent a letter from London, to BSCFA, informing them that the purchase of sugar for the 2014/2015 would be 10,000 tons, 55 thousand tons less than last year. It also informed them that the premium price which is US$60 will be paid until after the product has been sold to consumers as Fairtrade sugar.
Since Belize’s sugar has been sold under the Fairtrade umbrella, the sugar quota bought by Tate & Lyle has been at a stable 50 thousand tons. Last year saw an increase with 65 thousand tons. The reduction in sugar quota, according to the letter, is as a result of the market vulnerability. The letter signed by Simmon Gibbons, Senior Vice President of International Operations, says the company will endeavour to increase the volume, should sales of Fairtrade prove to be higher than previous forecasts. But according to Alfredo Ortega, spokesperson for the Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association, the reason for the decrease has nothing to do with market vulnerability.
“This is something that I cannot believe one hundred percent because of the market, because from since we have been Fairtrade certified, the least they have been purchasing from us (sugar from Belize), under the Fairtrade umbrella, has been 50,000 tons.
When we just started, then the first two years we sold all our sugar under the Fairtrade umbrella, and thereafter they certified other countries, [such] as Fiji, and then Guiana, [and] Jamaica. That started a reduction in regards to the amount being brought from us, but there was an increase last year to 65,000 tons. I think going down to a minimum of 10,000 tons is very low.
Coming on to this year to 10,000 tons [is] really something that is unbelievable. We certainly believe that [it is] because of the current situation that is ongoing between us and BSI/ASR.
“So you think that BSI has something to do with this as a sort of punishment to cane farmers because of the bagasse proposal that has not been accepted by the farmers?”
This is something that I believe as a personal opinion of mine, but tomorrow we will be having more information into this based on our meeting with the branch chairman.”
The reduction in sugar quota is one thing, but can farmers and, by extension, the country afford a change in the schedule of payment for sugar? According to the letter, the farmers will not be paid the premium price of US$60 per ton of sugar until the sales have been made. This is effective immediately. These drastic changes will have a negative impact on all farmers and by extension the entire nation of Belize.
“Really and truly this is bad news for the association and the industry. It will really have a negative impact to the industry, not only to the industry but also to all the staff and the country of Belize, because that means that there will be a reduction in regards to the premium that we have received from the sales of sugar under the fair trade umbrella.
So that means that many people will have to go home, and they won’t have any jobs for the association anymore. In regards to the industry, it really will create a situation in the industry, because there will be a reduction in finances that have been used for industry development, in regards to production and other situations within the industry.
So it will really create a negative impact to the association and also to the industry, and by extension to the country of Belize.”
The estimated reduction in income is estimated to be around 6.9 to 1.2 Belize Dollars. All 18 Directors of BSCFA are to meet on Thursday, in Orange Walk Town.