There is tension and unease in the sugar belt tonight. That’s because the third payment to farmers for cane delivered to the Belize Sugar Industries, is delayed. Even worst, there is still no indication when the eight thousand farmers and their families will be paid. So far they say they have been patient but that virtue is running out because the late payment means that their maintenance works and commitments have been thrown off schedule. When News Five’s Delahnie Bain dropped in today, the message was clear, times are “haad” and the people need the money.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Days after the third payment for the last sugar cane crop was due, the farmers are not getting any positive news about when funds will be made available. We’ve heard from Alfredo Ortega, the chairman of the committee of management of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association on how far they will go to get their money. But how do the farmers feel about the delay?
Conrado Cuellar, Cane Farmer (Translated)
“We, as farmers don’t have to negotiate with B.S.I. they have their own problems. They have Belcogen but when the crop started they were unable to produce the sugar. This problem should not reach there because if they have the capacity to produce the sugar then we shouldn’t have been at this point in the rainy season because it is best to take advantage of the summer months for delivery and the quality of cane.”
Hilario Pech, Cane Farmer
“It’s very serious because we don’t have to say anything with his financial problem because once the cane is made and sold, I we are due our money and this thing has been happening for three years now; they always delay it because they use our money and then they have to go and get a loan to pay us. Now we have to wait until they get that money for we to get our money, which is OUR money that’s due to us.”
The farmers say they budget to live from payment to payment so they are already feeling the effects of the delay.
“Right now we’re waiting for the money. We want to clean the cane machinery we want to buy grease and oil to be ready for the start of the crop. That dah di damage to me.”
“My pickup there, that’s parked; it needs a battery. The truck needs diesel to move it. When we take our money we arrange it so that we meet this third payment. Now when we can’t get this money in time we’re in very serious problem. Financially, we are in a bad, bad state and I think everybody is like that. In two weeks when electricity and everything is due you will start seeing houses get in blackout because they’re gonna cut our electricity, we can’t pay.”
Cornelio Uh, Cane Farmer
“For me it’s very bad because we need that money.”
“How has it affected you?”
“In a lot of ways, like we need to fix up our trucks to begin the next crop and many other things right. Plus we need to buy food too. I owe the college too because we expected to get a grant from the Fairtrade and that would help we a lot. But the bonus, we need it.”
At this point there are two issues that are left in limbo: when the payment will be made and what happens when the next crop is to start?
“If they don’t get no money, not even they can move their equipment. They need that money so they can move and we, the same thing.”
“We’re in a big debate over why the money won’t be paid which really has nothing to do with us because they have already received the cane. One of their biggest problems is the BELCOGEN but that is their problem not ours.”
“I noh know weh di si B.S.I. wah get money fi pay and like that we wah can’t have wah next crop too because they don’t have money.”
The 2010-2011 crop season is scheduled to start in early December… IF the finances can be found. Delahnie Bain for News Five.