Sugar cane crop begins with hope and a prayer
All parties in the sugar industry appear optimistic as the 2011 crop got under way on Wednesday, December 15, but sobered no less by the recent threat of closure.
The crop opening was livelier than normal because both BSI, the Belize Sugar Industries, and cane farmers in Corozal and Orange Walk began the crop with a renewed commitment to succeed.
BSI’s Finance Director, Belizario Carballo, told Reporter, that this year’s crop is most significant because its success or failure could determine the future of the industry in Belize - revive the industry or sound its death knell.
The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute has been revitalized, Carballo said. It is an arm of the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB), and will provide technical support to cane farmers.
The Institute is not to be confused with the Sugar Cane Production Committee (SCPC), another arm of Sugar Industry Control Board, charged with implementing and supervising the quality control program to which all parties: the government, SICB, BSI and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association subscribe.
Carballo said cane quality will be reflected in the new payment structure which has come into effect, as agreed upon.
The 18 branches of the association, nine from Corozal and nine from Orange Walk, have formed 14 Quality Test Groups. Some of these were able to form groups within themselves because of their large size.
These groups have a dual function - of helping with cane quality and speeding up the time frame for cut cane to reach the mill. This is critical for quality control. The fresher the cane, the more sucrose it produces since fermentation causes a loss of sugar in the cane.
In the past, many tons of sucrose have been lost because cane quality deteriorates while farmers spend hours, even days, waiting in line outside the factory to deliver their sugarcane.
Test groups will now assign the farmers specific time slots, during which farmers of each branch must be able to deliver their cane, eliminating needless congestion and delays at the factory.
Carballo said the European Union’s Accompanying Measures Fund has opened up a $48 million line of credit to the industry.
Some of this money has been used for infrastructural developments, and about $16 million has been allotted to help make this year’s crop better.
The EU fund is to help the industry become more competitive now markets are no longer protected and quotas no longer exist as far as the European sugar market is concerned.
Last year the European Union slashed its imports from ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries by 22 percent.
Carballo cautioned that all parties need to adhere to the conditions of the signed agreement to ensure long-term stability and success for the sugar industry in Belize. THE REPORTER