On Monday we told you of the resolve of cane farmers in the North to press for a renegotiation of the basic agreement with Belize Sugar Industries to include bagasse as a by-product of the sugar stalk since it is now being used as bio-fuel. BSI continues to insist that there is nothing to negotiate and that farmers are wrong. On Tuesday in Belize City vice-chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), Mr. Alfredo Ortega, and its CEO, Mr. Oscar Alonzo, continued to press the case. Mr. Ortega discusses the cane farmers’ next plans.
“We have another mandate from our farmers, and the mandate came from two divisions that we have both Orange Walk and Corozal. The mandate is that we don’t start crop if we don’t sign any agreement with BSI. In the agreement, it has to include bagasse in it. So, our move with this is that we will continue with what the farmers have placed in our shoulders; we are asking and we are calling on BSI to come and let us dialogue because it is not only the cane farmers that we lose if things go nasty; it is the whole industry. I think the answer that they have given that no, they will not share with us, I think that is a big slap to the face of the farmers. I believe that they are being so disrespectful with us and we want them to come and treat us as they say that we are shareholders in the industry”.
Oscar Alonzo meanwhile says farmers are not asking for anything onerous.
“So, what we are saying is, come to the table; let us negotiate something. When BSI came we said, we welcome you because we saw that your proposal seems to be better than Atlantida. Atlantidas proposal was originally to put the clamp back, began to show new methods of payment. So, they seem to be more oppressive. BSI seems to be more amicable and we saw that we can hope with them and that we can develop a good relationship and this is what we have started to do”.
Though not desirous of violence, Oscar Alonzo says the issue is important enough for them to protest.
Mr. Oscar Alonzo: “We are willing to protest. We are not saying block the roads. There are different ways you can protest, alright? We are going to find the best ways to avoid situations of violence and we don’t like that…we are not advocating that”.
The sides are next scheduled to meet on November 19 in Belize City though BSI has already declared the bagasse issue non-negotiable. Divisional meetings of the Association have likewise declared that they will not start the crop without a suitable agreement – meaning, one that has a negotiated price for bagasse.