On Wednesday afternoon we spoke with Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca, on the ongoing power struggle in the sugar industry between Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) and Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA).
Mr Fonseca says a third partner in the industry, the Government in the guise of the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) and Ministry of Agriculture, is noticeably silent, and he wants to know why.
“I think the problem today is that the Government of Belize, who is an integral part of that partnership, is missing in action. The farmers themselves have been calling for the Sugar Industry Control Board to get engaged in this process. They have been missing in action.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Vega, has been missing in action. His deputy Hugo Patt, whom I believe sits on the Sugar Industry Control Board, has also been missing in action.
I think that is really the crux of the problem as it stands today. We need a government that is engaged. We need a government that will lead on this issue, that will bring all the parties to the table and work endlessly everyday to try to solve this very, very serious problem.”
Negotiations, says Francis Fonseca, should be based on the premises that the farmers are supreme.
“The cane farmers own the sugar cane, and – you’ll hear this a lot from the BSCFA and the cane farmers themselves – they want to be at the table when there are discussions about the marketing of the sugar, the sale of the sugar, the sale of by-products. That is why there has been this very serious discussion about bagasse, and how the farmers will benefit from the sale of bagasse. They want to be involved in that process.
So there has to be a formula put in place for the farmers to participate in the marketing of this product, that they grow and nurture, and then later sell to BSI.”