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#394994 - 12/17/10 03:18 PM Sugar Season Starts
Marty Offline
The sugar crop started today after successive delays - and while the event usually passes without even a mention in the news, this year is different because the future of the entire industry is hanging in the balance.

And we visited BSI today where we found that the growers are sufficiently seized by the sense of urgency - here's more in this report.

Jules Vasquez Reporting
Much political scenery and fanfare was made today when this cane farmer from Orange Walk brought in the first truckload of cane for the 2010 cane season.

After the glad-handing, he climbed in his truck, got the green light and rolled into the factory - unto the scale.

It's been happening for decades without all this pomp - but this year the stakes - both politically and business-wise are high as the industry is teetering on the verge of collapse. Speaking of collapse, now there's just an empty space where the core sampler - which was the source of bitter contention ins last year's riots - once rested.

But on this day no core sampler was needed because from what we saw, the farmers are doing their part to ensure that there is not a collapse. They delivered cane of a visibly improved quality; it was green, robust, without the usual, leaves, roots and mud, and it was not burnt.

It may not last forever - but it was a good start - and to ensure that it stays like this President of the Cane Farmers Association Alfredo Ortega they have a policing mechanism and a commitment from the farmers:

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, BSCFA Committee of Management
"Our commitment is to bring clean, fresh and mature material to the factory. As you can see these trucks that is delivering cane at this moment their cane is very clean for the first time in about 20 years that we are bringing this quality of cane and farmers are committed to that, we are committed on our side to do all that is in our path so that we can deliver this material clean and fresh to the factory. The other side is the milling that the factory needs to do so that we can achieve the quality of sugar we are looking for."

And more than just a commitment - they cut the ribbon for a new unit with a million dollar budget. It is called SIRDI and it will ensure that the quality is maintained and that the cane delivered is of high quality which will bring them closer to their target of optimal yield and higher quality, that is fewer tonnes of cane producing a greater tonnage of sugar:

Rene Montero, Minister of Agriculture
"As important as opening the 2010//2011 SAFRA is the official launching of the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI). SIRDI is an institution established by the sugar industry act of 2001 and is the principal entity responsible for the development of an efficient and productive sugar industry research and extension system that is economically viable, financial sustainable and environmental safe."

And while the mood was upbeat – a decided down-note came when some of the invited farmers spotted a truck carrying inferior quality cane from a BSI-owned field. As these images show, the cane was dry, brittle and obviously devoid of sugar juice. It’s an issue – cane like this brings down the overall quality of the crop – and affects the bottom line for the farmers – and if BSI is doing it at their own factory, then what can be expected of the farmers. It’s a contentious issue for the farmers – and one key farmer told us how he feels:

Farmer, Superior - SIRDI
"The company can do whatever they want because they are the owners of the factory, then we as cane farmers we are not going to allow that."

Edwardo Zetina, Mgr. Research/Cane Farmer Relations
"Well, the BSCFA chemists are doing their job, they look at a truck and for them it's of inferior quality. They will test it and the test will decide whether it's of inferior quality. Let us rules of what the number will be and once the numbers are ok it might be inferior to you and maybe to some people, but it is not inferior for accepting it into the mill, so while you might look at it right now and say it is of inferior quality compare to other units that we see going in perhaps but when you look at the numbers we will decide whether it is inferior."

It's a contentious issue for the farmers - and one key farmer told us how he feels:

Cane Farmer
"That makes us feel very bad because we are going to make a big effort to cut clean cane."

Edwardo Zetina, Mgr. Research/Cane Farmer Relation
"You and I not make a decision to say that it is of inferior quality, let the process take place. Remember that inferior is subjective, it might be inferior to you but there are very clear."

And while there is a dispute - the important thing is they're talking - and there is some level of accountability and hopefully transparency in the testing as well. It has to work, because there is a lot riding on this year's crop - no less than the livelihood of six thousand farmers.

For the season to be considered successful - the farmers would have to deliver 1.1 million tonnes of cane within the 30 week crop period.

Channel 7


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#394996 - 12/17/10 03:20 PM Re: Sugar Season Starts [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

NEW SUGAR CANE CROP BEGINS

The 2010-2011 sugar crop was officially open today at the Belize Sugar Industry’s Compound. Manuela Ayuso Canton reports.

Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporting…

An industry that has faced much controversy and which was on the verge of collapse has seen the beginning of a new season. Today the mills at the BSI factory in Tower Hill began to grind again as the first trip of sugar cane was delivered.  A ceremony to mark the occasion saw the participation of all the stakeholders, farmers, millers and government representatives. Recently the Government of Belize intervened to bail out BSI from financial problems that almost led to the demise of the industry as BSI was unable to secure financing to pay farmers for the cane delivered in last crop and to start the season. Minister of Agriculture Rene Montero Officially opened the 2011 sugar cane crop.

Rene Montero; Minister of Agriculture 

“The sugar industry is the primary economic engine of the northern part of our country. Over forty thousand people depend on it including six thousand cane farmers who toy the land arduously to produce cane as well as the workers at BSI who process the cane into sugar. The BSCFA and BSI with government support have the collective responsibility of ensuring the success of this crop. There is too much risk, including now ten million dollars of tax payers money employed to rescue the industry. We must succeed for the thousands of Belizeans who depend on this industry; failure is not an option.”

To ensure the viability of the industry, cane farmers have committed to deliver quality cane this season and have agreed to be paid by quality. Belize Sugar Cane Famers Association Chairman is Alfredo Ortega.

Alfredo Ortega; Chairman, Belize Sugar Cane Famers Association

“We need to bring clean, fresh and mature cane to the factory. As farmers we have a commitment, not only for the beginning of crop but through the crop to deliver that material to the mill.”

Manuela Ayuso Cantun, Reporter

Now, we saw the removal of the core sampler earlier this week. The core sampler was dismantled but there is a new payment per quality system being implemented. We saw what happened when the core sampler was implemented. How receptive are the farmers to being paid for quality?

Alfredo Ortega

“Okay, what happened with the core sampler is that it was testing farmers individually. This new system that is being implemented will be a testing by group, by different test groups. The test groups are being developed by branches. Every hour or every forth minutes a test will be extracted. Our chemist that will be working over here will be in charge of brining that sample and they will take it to the lab where the necessary analysis will be done. All the farmers of that group will get paid based on the quality that they are bringing in. it will be a variation but not by individual farmers but by the different groups that will be delivering in the different hours.”

The last sugar cane season was one of the worst in history and this year everybody involved is getting onboard to ensure the success of this season. BSI’s Director Joey Montalvo says he is happy that major hurdles have been crossed and begin the new milling season with renewed optimism.

Joey Montalvo; Director, BSI

“I am and indeed we all are very pleased that we have all embraced the introduction of the proposed quality payment which we are going to put into action this year. This is you know will provide the financial incentives which are required to drive the necessary improvements in overall quality; both can and sugar which are both essential for us to survive. As miller we will do our part to maximize and extract the greatest amount of sugar from the cane.”

BSI has committed to grind 6 thousand tons of cane each day. Last year the factory did not mill its capacity as it suffered numerous breakdowns as a result of the linkage between BSI and Belcogen. Factory Manager John Gillet says this year will different.

John Gillet; Factory Manager

“Last year’s you know we had the introduction of Belcogen and no doubt a big operation like that, it was expected to have some teething problems. None the less the teething problems went on a little longer than we would have expected around ten to twelve weeks. At the latter part of the crop that problem was sorted out and we believe that we are in a much better state of readiness today to start the crop. We believe that we are going to have an efficient operation this year which is coupled by the quality improvement program that is in place likewise.”

The industry must become competitive to survive and as such the government is undertaking several initiatives to assist. Today the Sugar Industry Development Institute was launched with the traditional ribbon cutting. SIRDI reactivated in April will be the entity to provide technical support for the sugar cane replanting project.

Rene Montero

“A 16.2 million dollars will be made available for a revolving fund scheme which will be managed by the Caribbean Development Bank and implemented by the Development Finance Corporation. The funds will be sourced from the European Union accompanying measures for sugar program which has committed to the Belizeans. These funds will be used for sugar replanting projects so that yields can be increased from the current average of sixteen tons per acre to twenty five tons per acre. The project is aimed at increasing quantity and quality of sugar. Two, a feasibility study will be undertaken next year to determine the viability of establishing a loading and unloading port facility to reduce the shipping cost of sugar from the sugar cane factory to the vessels which transport sugar to the foreign market. Three, the support provided to cane farmers for purchasing fuel will continue, however your government would prefer to establish a road fund with this support so that combined with counterpart funds from the BSCFA the maintenance of sugar roads can be addressed annually. Besides this the licensing of sugar cane crops pickups tractors and al equipment used to transport sugar cane will not be necessary.”

Reporting for Love News from Orange Walk Town, I am Manuela Ayuso Cantun.


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