Government and cane farmers hold out hope for sugar crop

On Monday morning, a key meeting between executives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and Prime Minister Dean Barrow was held in Belize City.

Farmers are anxiously awaiting this latest attempt at mediation by the Government of Belize, after producers Belize Sugar Industries (BSI)/ASR appeared unwilling to budge to satisfy the BSCFA’s attempts at conciliation.

BSCFA Chairman Ezequiel Cansino stated that the farmers have been as accomodating as they can, but if they need to go to the streets, they will.

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vlcsnap-2014-12-09-05h26m49s0Ezequiel Cansino – Chairman BSCFA

“We believe that it’s more flexible and that’s where we as cane-farmers we are feeling that indeed  we are going too far being flexible. We are trying our best to get to an agreement. We hope that at this time we get through this impasse, and if not we will be seeking other options.”

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Reporter
“Have you communicated to the Prime Minister that it is reaching that point where farmers are becoming increasingly incline to protest?”

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Ezequiel Cansino
“Obviously, and he is well aware about that. I don’t know if he was just kidding, but he said in that case he would be ready to join us on that protest,  if that is the solution for us to get in an agreement.”

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Esequiel Cansino revealed that the farmers have edged off their hard-nosed position over bagasse, agreeing temporarily to the 51-cent per ton proposal made by BSI. But they believe it is worth much more – and that BSI have not been truthful about the profits they make from power generation because of it.

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Ezequiel Cansino

“We presented to the Prime Minister a proposal as to where we are willing to accept the fifty-one cents for at least three years, but this time we want them to give us their accounts to see if they are doing some profit, because they are claiming that they just doing losses and no profits are coming, but we want to see if they are doing some profits so as to we can negotiate or at least an increment on that fifty-one cents.”

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While declining to go into specifics, Prime Minister Barrow reiterated that the farmers’ proposals appear reasonable to him. Getting BSI/ASR to agree, however, may be a different matter.

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Reporter

“Are you a little bit disappointed in the position taken by BSI/ASR at this point to still be holding out, so to speak?”

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vlcsnap-2014-12-09-05h40m29s164Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Well I would be if after I meet with them there is no agreement.”

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Reporter

“Do you feel the farmers are justified if they would choose to stage a protest?”

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Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“Well, it depends, a protest agaonst whom?  Certainly they would not be justified if they staged a protest against GOB.

We have this last chance. I think it is a last chance and I believe the farmers will wait to see what comes out of my discussion with ASR.”

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Reporter

“Are you confident you’ll be able to move them, you said you don’t talk specific, but on the critical areas?”

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Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I believe that there is the possibility.  There is room in which to maneuver.”

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The Prime Minister says he has conveyed his apologies, through CEO Audrey Wallace and Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, to the organizers of the CARICOM-Cuba Summit scheduled for this week, which he had to ditch to return to handle the sugar crisis.

He projects that there will be an agreement before the end of the year, but noted the danger of not having one in time for Christmas, which puts the first payment to the farmers in jeopardy and hits the economy of the North especially hard.

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