The first estimate for prices of raw sugar cane was released earlier this month. Producers American Sugar Refining/Belize Sugar Industries Limited ASR/BSI) have estimated a price of $41.56 per ton, with some 1.225 million tons of cane available from which BSI expects to mill 129,000 tons of sugar. Of course this did not sit well with the farmers who have thousands invested in their sugar cane fields. The associations sent a tripartite letter to BSI requesting that the estimate be revisited but the millers reaffirmed their position saying that is the price reflected by the sugar that arrived in Europe in 2015 and that readjusting the estimated first payment is well beyond them. The farmers have since been appealing to the Government seeking other avenues by which they can increase their profit margins even if by the slightest bit in order to weather this storm. That led to a meeting at the Sugar Board between the Minister of Agriculture, Deputy Prime Minster Gaspar Vega and representatives of the three farmer associations. Coming out of the meeting was an increase in the locally sold sugar as announced by Hon. Vega.
Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture: Today, I think that was one of the most important lobbying that was being done and I want to announce that the way the government did approve the 25c increase per pound for our locally consumed sugar. Some people thought that it could probably be even more because of the price on the sugar in our neighboring countries which is Mexico and Guatemala and even at 75c per pound; we’re still lower than the price sold in other countries.
Reporter: When will it come into effect? What all needs to happen for that to be imposed?
Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture: Well as we speak, both CEO and I are looking into getting the SI ready, sending it to the attorney general so that it’s approved and made law and hopefully we will be able to do that pretty quickly.
Vega explained how this affects the overall price that they get during their first payment.
Reporter: And in terms of the first price for farmers, is there any realistically that government can do?
Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Agriculture: Well we have increased the price on local sugar. That will assist them that should be giving them something like $4.60 more per ton. So instead of 33, they should probably get another $3.00 because $4.60 at the way it works, BSI only pays a percentage upfront. You have to remember that ASR does not collect for the sugar until it’s sold so the first payment that they make is not money that they have collected from sugar they will be selling. They either have that in a saving, which I doubt, or they have to make a loan. So those are the challenged that the industry has to learn about.
This year’s Crop Season is expected to commence in the first week of December.