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#483988 - 01/25/14 03:49 AM Sugar Season Starts In Earnest
Marty Offline
Today, after almost 3 months of delays the 2013-2014 sugar crop season finally began. Estimates are that over 10 million dollars in production has been lost, and some 16 million dollars more in sugar cane stands to be wasted at the end of this season.

So, with that grim bottom line in mind, the cane farmers were more than willing to start the deliveries today, and 7News went north to see the season start. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Today, the Tower Hill Sugar Factory opened up their gates to accept the first cane deliveries for the 2013-2014 milling seasons.

Because of the rains, the bad condition of the sugar roads, and primarily bagasse impasse, this day, which should have happened back in the middle of November, finally arrived.

We found the farmers eager to move their product in, time is against them and millions of dollars in crop is at risk of being wasted.

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, BSFCA's CoM
"The new crop of 2013/2014 in which the Corozal division is delivering during the day period starting with the San Narciso branch which is the number one for this year in the Corozal division. Myself, we are very proud of the quality of cane that be being brought to the factory today."

Ramon Aban - Chairman, BSCFA San Joaquin Branch
"We know that we have one million, two hundred plus tons, but the amount that the company is that they could grind 946 thousand tons. If you check the one million two hundred and only 946 they will grind - you know what will happen in the last day of the crop."

There was a fear that the rains would affect the quality cane, but the experts are satisfied with what is being delivered today.

Jose Novelo - Chairman, Sugar Cane Production Committee
"I am impressed with the quality of the cane that is coming from the cane fields. The cane as you can obviously see it's very clean despite the fact that it has been raining. To me it's a demonstration that the farmers are conscious about quality that they want to maintain a good quality program and that is very good for the industry. It speaks very well for the farmers."

The initial target for this season was 1.2 million tonnes of sugar produced. Some in the industry are hopeful that it is still possible to meet them, while others are accepting reality that there will be cane wasted.

Jose Novelo - Chairman, Sugar Cane Production Committee
"I would want to think that if the mill can grind more than 7,500 tons a day and if the farmers are able to meet those daily quotas that we will surpass the one million, so I am optimistic that we will be able to do atleast a million."

Javier Blanco - Chemist Representing Cane Farmers
"In terms of what our targets are I believe that our initial target will not be met because we are projecting that between 10%-12% of the crop is going to be staying in the field."

Today's delivery was controlled, and the farmers set a target of 5,000 tonnes of cane to be brought in to the mill for grinding today. If they want to catch up in that loss of productivity, they will step up those daily deliveries to 7,500 tonnes.

The cane roads continue to be an issue, and we'll have some commentary on that later on in the news.

Season Starts But Sugar Roads Still An Issue

Earlier we told you that the sugar cane season had opened. But, the final hurdle that stakeholders in the sugar industry are facing right now are the sugar roads. They are in bad condition because of last year's rains, and the Government of Belize starting working on them from last week Monday.

They are far from being totally fixed, and today the Vice Chairman of the Cane Farmers Association's Committee of Management, the budget set aside to fix the road is clearly not enough. Here's how he explained the situation where one road was left unfinished after only 30% of it was fixed:

"Has the relevant authorities communicated with you to tell you what their position or how are they currently conducting the works on the roads?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, BSFCA's CoM
"I call yesterday one of the engineers and I spoke to him about a particular road where there are an amount of farmers that have a lot of cane there that could be harvested and he told me that the funds available for that particular road has depleted and that happen to many roads according to him that were given under contract because of the situation of the road."

"It's a pity that that is happening because we thought when we had the meeting and we were promised that works would be done on the road. We thought that works would be done to at least reach 90% to fix some of those roads."

"At this point what percentage of the roads has been worked on?"

Alfredo Ortega - Vice-Chair, BSFCA's CoM
"I would say about 30%. We didn't knew that they had proportionated by road and amount of funds designated to those roads, so that really move the goal post to a different direction that we thought that they were working on this road; we were happy that at least it will be fulfilled at least 90% of it and the other 10% well farmers could have in one way or the other find stones to fill the their little pieces that are needed but the situation presently is that they reach sometimes 30% - 40% of the road and then they move to another place. The burden remains there because farmers are unable bring their product on those sugar roads."

According to Ortega, the farmers have been trucking rocks to the different spots where roads are in the worst conditions, and they've been dumping them in the potholes. Government said that they budgeted an unprecedented 2.5 million dollars for these repairs.

Channel 7

#484076 - 01/26/14 04:01 AM Re: Sugar Season Starts In Earnest [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Show Must Go On!

Delivery of sugar cane in Corozal started early this morning (Jan. 24th). The Corozal Daily caught up with a few loaded cane trucks and cane farmers early this morning. It is a bitter sweet moment as cane farmers have already irrecoverably lot over 10,000 tonnes of sugar cane equivalent to over ten million Belize dollars as a result of the undue delays.

The 2014 sugar cane harvest was due to begin November of last year but due to a stalemate in the negotiations of “bagasse” payment, between BSI/ASR and the Belize Sugar Cane Famers Association, the harvest had been delayed. To make matters worse the inclement weather and incessant rains deteriorated most cane roads and inundated cane fields. Many farmers this morning were calling the media to complain that their particular roads have not been repaired and they cannot access their cane fields to harvest them.

On January 8th, 2014 the management of BSI/ASR, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association representing the 18 branches and the Government of Belize worked out an agreement on the issue of the provisional payment of bagasse.

It was a very positive meeting and outcome in the negotiations. BSCFA Vice-Chairman Alfredo Ortega said the farmers had expected more government support, even though GOB’s position is that it has no jurisdiction in what is essentially a private commercial agreement between BSI/ASR and the cane farmers, another private entity.

The sugar cane farmers have certainly come a long way from the impasse they had been on the bagasse payment issue in September last year.

Corozal Daily (…Sometimes)


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