Last night, we told you about the dramatic move which executives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers took to voice a protest against Belize Sugar Industries and their parent company, American Sugar Refining: they walked en masse out of a stakeholders meeting.
As we’ve told you it’s in relation to bagasse, the bi-product of sugar production after the sugar cane has been processed. BSI’s subsidiary, BELCOGEN, uses this material to generate electricity which it then sells to BEL.
Currently, BSI reaps 100% of the profits it makes from that arrangement with BEL, but the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association wants a share in the earnings.
Today, 7News caught up with the Chairman of the Association’s Committee of Management, and he told us that the cane farmers deserve a piece of the pie because they provide the sugar cane, the raw material which ends up as bagasse:
Alfredo Ortega - Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA
"Bagasse is the fuel now for BELCOGEN. BELCOGEN is selling electricity to the national grid, and they are using electricity in the mill, which is produced by BELCOGEN. Now, what we're saying to them is that since you are using the bagasse that now has become a fuel, it has an economical value, let us share part of that economic value that it have. What is their response is that it's a waste, and we're telling them that it's not a waste; it has become bi-product that is generating economic value in the industry. It's a bi-product that comes out of the sugar cane, and we are getting paid for the sugar cane presently for the sugar that they take out of it, and the molasses. But now, we have the bagasse that is being used as fuel, so we are asking to give us a fair share out of that. They are making money out of electricity that they are selling to the national grid."
"So they are refusing flatly to give any sort of revenue from that to the cane farmers?"
"Well, that is what they have said to us, a complete no, and that they cannot negotiate anything with us on that because bagasse is a waste. That is all we have gotten from them."
According to Ortega, BSI current position is a resounding refusal to allow the farmers to share in the revenue from bagasse. He adds that they’ve made several half-hearted attempts at negotiations on the issue, but their representative has consistently cancelled their meetings to negotiate, and then asked for a change in date. Unconfirmed Reports to the BSCFA is that in 2010 and 2011, BSI earned $11 million and $21 million consecutively from Bagasse.
7News made several attempts to contact the CEO of BSI, Joey Montalvo, but our calls and text messages requests went unanswered. We also visited the BSI offices in Orange Walk, but we were told that he was out of the office.