Proving the old saying that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) on Friday wrote the press to announce the results of a meeting on Thursday in Orange Walk Town between its representatives and officials from American Sugar Refining (ASR) and Belize Sugar Industries (BSI).
Representing ASR and BSI were Messrs. Ricardo Lima, Celestino Ruiz, Eduardo Recio, and Jose Montalvo, and on behalf of the Association were Messrs. Alfredo Ortega, Javier Keme, Ramon Cervantes Jr., Oscar Alonzo, Geovanni Diaz, and David Gibson, Javier Blanco and Alfonzo Briseno. The directors and members of BSCFA committees on finance and monitoring as well as Mr. Jose Novelo, Belize Government representative, also attended as observers. According to the Association’s chair Ortega, the proposals they have made are nothing new.
“We are seeking forward at the knowledge, but as you know, the negotiation will bring us to a certain level whereby we can reach to an agreement. The problem is that we haven’t had anything from them in writing; what their expenses are what their investments are in regards to the conversion of the bagasse and, based on that, we are here on that regard. So, what we have presented to them is based on what our technicians have gathered, and that is our point on this, but we have mentioned to them that it’s on the table for negotiation. All what we are seeking for is getting a rightful benefit out of the use of bagasse”.
The Association says they have not been able to get details from BSI as to their calculations on the issue.
“What we discussed yesterday with them, and Mr. Lima advised us to send a letter to BSI so that we can renew negotiations as early as possible. So, with this release, we have sent a letter also to BSI Team. We are asking them for a date (the 25th of October) depending to see what they will answer us if the date is good for them to go ahead with the negotiation and hopefully, we can reach into an agreement where both parties can end up benefitting from this issue”.
The Association’s press release issued this afternoon contends that in the agreement signed in 2002 between BSI and BSCFA, the producer is paid for their content of sugar and molasses, after being sold and verified the amounts deducted and marketing costs, and that when another by-product of sugar cane has economic value, both parties, BSI and BCSFA, define the distribution of these new revenues, just as they do currently distributed sugar and molasses revenue. According to the BSCFA bagasse is now 17% of the content of the cane stalk, and Belize produces the best quality cane in the region. The bagasse can be sold as raw material for cattle feed, and used to produce ethanol, electricity, paper, pressed for construction panels, etc. Ortega says the farmers are not willing to delay the start of the season over the issue but is pressing for a timely solution.
“We are seeking to go through with this negotiation, and to finalize the negotiation before the next crop season. They have mentioned that the factory will be ready for the 25th of November. So we’re seeking forward in finalizing this negotiation before the 25th of November. Once we reach an agreement and we can finalize into a friendship solution to this issue, I believe that there should be no problem for the crop, for the start of the next crop season. “
The two sides are to meet again next Friday, October 25. In related news farmers are looking for a good third payment on cane after initial forecasts set projected highs of $73.17 per ton.