Tonight, there is a breakthrough to report on the BSI st6andoff with cane farmers.  This morning the Prime Minister got BSI/ASR to agree in principle to paying the farmers for bagasse.  They haven’t decided on how much they will pay, but they have agreed that some payment must be made.  It’s a major leap forward, and it should see the start of the season – before there are critical losses.

After getting ASR/BSI to make those concessions this morning, in the afternoon, the PM went to meet with the cane farmers at the Biltmore.  After a meeting that lasted little over an hour, he said that the farmers have also agreed:

Hon. Dean Barrow - Prime Minister Of Belize
"There’s been agreement in principle with the position that I brought back from the ASR meeting. Naturally, the directors will now convene an emergency general meeting on Sunday and their acceptance will need to be ratified by the general meeting. But at this level there is an acceptance of the position. We are therefore preparing to start the crop as soon as may be possible and we are preparing to start the negotiation between the BSCFA and B.S.I., which negotiations will proceed on the basis that the payment of which bagasse is due, but that of course quantum must be agreed."

Jules Vasquez
"So, how hard was it to get ASR to come over to that position since they are, in principle, opposed to it, and I imagined that is a position held throughout their corporate empire?"

Hon. Dean Barrow
"Well, I will tell you that they said that the only reason they agreed was because of my intervention and that of the Government of Belize and I will leave it at that. No, on a serious note, they did say that, up to this morning they were insistent on their position and expressed all sorts of fears as to the future, should they agree to what Government was requiring. They thought that it will set a bad precedent, but we were able to talk the whole thing through, and in the end obviously, they were convinced that this is the only way to go".

Mike Rudon - Channel 5
"Tell us; what was your response to what was presented to you at this meeting by the PM?"

Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA
"In principle, it looks very good what he has reported to us what ASR sent to him in their letter, that they compromise themselves for a payment of bagasse to the farmers. Based in what he has mentioned to us, will be calling meeting with our farmers on Sunday to report to them what we have garnered from the Prime Minister today on this meeting"

Mike Rudon
"Was the quantum discussed?"

Alfredo Ortega
"No, not as yet, that will be a discussion between us and BSI."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you expect that the farmers will accept though, the principle that you all should be paid for bagasse."

Alfredo Ortega
"Well, that is what we will be reporting to them on Sunday. I cannot say at this point that the farmers will accept or not. That will depend on the meeting we'll be holding with them on Sunday."

Jules Vasquez
"So, will you all now proceed to work on the cane roads? Will deliveries begin on Monday?"

Hon. Dean Barrow
"No, no, the chemist for the BSFCA concurs with what ASR told me this morning. There is no way that - well, I will put to you the 2 positions. ASR said deliveries could not start before December 27, and that would depend on the weather. Mr. Briceno, the chemist, says in his view, they can before the first week in January. Because of the weather, the sucrose content is extremely low, so that if they delivered now, what they would get in terms of payment, would be also extremely low. So, on both sides, there is an agreement that you're not going to start before the December 27."

Jules Vasquez
"Prime Minister is now saying December 27. Will be able to start on that date without major losses?"

Alfredo Ortega
"We cannot commit at this point in time. All will depend on what we'll be getting on Sunday from the cane farmers, and also if there will be a continuation on the meeting, what will result with us and BSI in regards to the first meeting we have with them, that we have a signed commitment with them that this negotiation will follow up for a time period. We can say that if January 15 comes, and we are unable to start, then we'll see huge problems and huge losses that can be created to the industry."

Jules Vasquez
"So, but when will a hard final and fast decision made that, yes, we will have a season? Will it be made on Sunday, or will it be made on Thursday after your first meeting with BSI/ASR."

Alredo Ortega
Well, it will likely be both on Sunday, what we'll be getting from the cane farmers, and from there after, it will depend on our first meeting with BSI. What we are looking forward to is to sign that there will be payment for bagasse. Now, what will take the longer period of time, if there is any, it will be for the quantum on the payment for bagasse."

So, the sequence of events going forward is like this: on Sunday, the cane farmers will meet with its general membership to get their ok to move forward on bagasse talks on the basis that they will get paid.  And then on Thursday, those talks between BSI and the Cane Farmers begin in earnest.  After that, they expect to agree on a price for bagasse by the end of March or early April.

And while that is the timeline for meetings – if all goes well and the cane farmers agree to move forward after the meetings on Sunday and Thursday, the season is expected to start in early January.

Channel 7