Last week we reported to you that Santander packaged sugar was found in stores in the Orange Walk and Corozal districts. The discovery caused quite an alarm for the sugar cane farmers and sugar cane producers in Belize who say they are already going through a difficult year with historic lows in sugar prices. The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, The Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association, and the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association, all issued a joint letter to the Minister of Agriculture, Godwin Hulse, requesting a meeting to answer a few questions of concern. Santander did admit to selling 750 metric tons of sugar to one local distributor. In a press release Santander indicated that they did not realize that they needed an additional waiver for the local markets and that apologize for this oversight. Opposition leader Jonny Briceno decided to weigh in on the Santander Sugar violation.
Johhny Briceno, Leader of the Opposition: We support the initiatives that government provided to Santander and we are happy that Santander has allowed a few Belizean farmers to deliver cane to their factory. Still, we are a country that is governed by laws and EPZ laws are clear. I want to strongly encourage the minister with responsibility for foreign trade to do his job. Currently, CARICOM countries import over 400,000 metric tons of sugar into the region from countries outside of CARICOM. Our directorate of foreign trade should be insisting that all Belizean sugar be exported to these nations where we get a better price than what we get on the open market. We have to support Santander. They have invested millions in Belize and they are our partners. We can support them by ensuring that they and BSI have access to CARICOM markets, in places like Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. While we stand with all our farmers, we are prepared to work with Santander to put pressure on government to get more of our Belizean sugar into CARICOM markets; but we cannot violate our laws to encourage ministerial hustle.