When we left you on Friday, it was with news that a tentative deal had been cut between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) and Belize Sugar Industries, Limited (BSI) and international partner American Sugar Refining (ASR) with the Government of Belize playing honest broker.
The BSCFA shifted several of its positions in order to have the crop season start quickly, leaving them open to accusations of betraying the interest of the caneros. But in the end after fierce and fiery debate, the farmers agreed to the proposals presented, which will now go to attorneys for both sides to be fully crafted into an agreement that will be signed later this week.
Chairman of the BSCFA’s Committee of Management, Ezequiel Cansino, told reporters that perhaps better could have been done, but he is confident the best was done at this time.
“We are confident that the cane farmers understood exactly what we presented. Yesterday many cane farners said that they want to put some amendments in the proposals, but I feel confident that they are well aware that what they all agreed.
We have to do our own part, so we will be part of the the Strategic Plan, and then we will contribute the best we can, and so we can agree on a better deal in the future for our cane farmers.”
According to Ezequiel Cansino, the farmers had two key points agreed to at the time of their first meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, and dropped another, the bagasse, after it became clear they would get nowhere with it. That means the farmers are locked into being paid 51 cents per ton for the next three years.
It is things like this that cause ex-chairman of the Board and member of the Negotiating Team for BSCFA, Alfredo Ortega, to raise his personal dissatisfaction.
He shared with reporters where he thinks his colleagues went wrong.
“A meeting was held with the DPM in Orange Walk. That was where maybe the misinterpretation happened. It was not brought forward when the leaders met with the Prime Minister, to clear off what the decision was, if there was any decision or not. They went through with the presentation that was done, and that shifted completely what the negotiating team was negotiating on behalf of the farmers, on which as you clearly heard today. About two weeks ago a meeting was held on this spot at which farmers said ‘No we will not be signing and we want an interim agreement to be signed and then negotiations to continue,’ and things just shifted after that, and you see the outcome of today that we just went back to square one.”
Nonetheless it all appears to be over and the farmers are looking forward to the start of crop, despite sugar roads not being in the best condition. A combination of Government work and good weather, it is hoped, will move it along.