More than 700 cane farmers from the Orange Walk and Corozal districts gathered at the Escuela Mexico Auditorium in San Roman Village, Corozal, on Sunday July 20th., to keep members of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association abreast of the situation concerning bagasse, and to reach a general consensus to decide the way forward. In a letter dated the 15th of July, BSI presented BSCFA with an ultimatum giving them until the 1st of August to accept payment for fiber at 51 cents per ton. At the meeting, farmers expressed diverse opinions on the ongoing situation. Out of the 18 communities in Orange Walk and Corozal that are represented by BSCFA only the San Esteven branch of the Orange Walk division passed a consensus to accept BSI/ASR’s offer of 51 cents per ton of fiber. However the majority had their way and so, dissatisfied with BSI/ASR’s proposal, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association Board of Management intend to go back to the negotiation table until October 15th and will be seeking the intervention of the Sugar Industries Control Board (SICB).
“The farmers didn’t accept the fifty-one cents. What they have passed motion for is that we will look at the SICB to seek their intervention into this situation and for them to look forward with experts that will find a way or a solution to the situation where we are at this point.”
“What are you expecting SICB to play? Are they going to take the place of the association to make negotiations with BSI?”
“As you know within the industry we have 3 stakeholders which is the cane farmers, BSI as the miller and SICB that represent the government, so whenever two of the three cannot solve their problem then comes the third one. In this case it is the SICB we are looking forward, so that they can become like the referee between us, and for them to seek ways how we can resolve the situation between the cane farmers and BSI.
From the very fact that the farmer’s didn’t accept the 51 cents, that means that we are not accepting their deadlines. I think that it is total disrespect for them to come to say, we give you a deadline until August 1st, if you accept this then we want to have a clarification that who is the owner of the product of this and what’s not. I think that is why we are in negotiations and we should finalize our situation into a negotiation in which we have been asking from them from last year. We started our proposal to them from since 2012, but we started last year between them and us. I think putting a timeline as they have done is total disrespect. With the magnitude of this matter, I think that we need to be very clear and very frank and respectful to each other.”
BSCFA farmers say they will continue to reject what they call unruly treatment on the part of BSI/ASR. Of note is that while BSI did not have official representatives at the meeting, Olivia Avilez was present as a shareholder in the sugarcane industry.