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#498527 - 12/02/14 04:12 AM Cane Farmers Tell Leader To Stand Strong
Marty Offline
Next week Monday, December 8th. is the agreed upon start date for the sugar crop. But, with only days to go, there is still uncertainty if the cane deliveries will start on that day because the cane farmers and BSI/ASR have still has not arrived at an agreement.

As we showed you last week, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the CEO of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Chairman of the Sugar Industries Control Board, and the 18 Branch Chairmen of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association all met last week Friday. At a press briefing held afterwards, the Prime Minister said that the Cane Farmers Association had moved and there was quote, "a compelling basis to move forward."

But while the concessions - and no one at Friday's meeting would say what they are - were agreed to by the leaders of the cane farmers association, what would the general membership say?

7News was in San Roman village at the Escuela Secundaria Technica Mexico for the meeting and here's what happened:...

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Hundreds of cane farmers showed up for the Annual General Meeting on Saturday. At the height of the meeting, there were very few seats which weren't occupied. Still there were those who chose to stand or linger at the edge of the auditorium.

It was a session of great importance, where many housekeeping and management events needed to have happened. But on this day, the farmers were most interested in the progress of negotiations with BSI/ASR.

This meant that hours of planned events were postponed for a general discussion on what the farmers want collectively for the crop season to start.

It's been well established that there are 3 things that the farmers and the factory owners have refused to compromise on, besides the overarching bagasse issue. There is the issue of independent expert, the ownership of the cane, an interim agreement to start the crop. At Saturday's meeting, the farmers revisited those positions to remind their negotiators and their association.

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, BSCFA Cmte of Mgmt
"The farmers are firm to have that expert and to start with an interim agreement, but it is obvious and Mr. Alonzo said it, that BSI doesn't want an interim agreement. So we are simply saying if that is so that BSI doesn't want to start a crop with an interim agreement, lets us negotiate with all those 5 issues that are in controversy."

Oscar Alonzo - CEO, BSFCA (Translated)
"In this latest meeting, we the officials of BSCFA, got the opportunity to present the case of the Association. There, it was done, as in various occasions, I presented the Association's justification, as to why an independent expert should be hired, given that BSI has refused to move from its position to negotiate for more than 51 cents as payment for bagasse, also given that BSI refused to move from its position from their formula that is non-negotiable. They're using the fiber as the base to determine the value of bagasse. Also, they are giving the other conditions which are not beneficial to the cane farmers in the new agreement. You know what that condition is. The first is, who is the owner of the cane?"

What both sides continue to agree on is that another late start is undesirable and could be very detrimental to the industry. Each side knows how high the stakes are, but neither is willing to reveal their game plan as the agreed start date inches ever closer.

Daniel Ortiz
"What will happen if there is no interim agreement? Will the cane be delivered on December 8th?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, BSCFA Cmte of Mgmt
"I can't say what will happen because up to now we haven't been confirm that BSI will come to the table, but the government said that as soon as they can they will inform us when we can meet, but up to now we haven't confirm anything yet. I believe that we have to wait for that day to come."

So how long will the farmers wait to see what the factory owners do now? And how will that affect the start of the crop? Even with only 8 days away, there are no definite answers.

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, BSCFA Cmte of Mgmt
"What we went and affirm to the government that we will be willing to be flexible in those issues, but BSI have to be also flexible. They have to give us something in return, so the negotiation can continue."

Daniel Ortiz
"Everybody agrees that we need to start, but nobody seems to want to make that move to start. What's happening there?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, BSCFA Cmte of Mgmt
"That's what we have said, BSCFA is willing to negotiate and be flexible in some areas."

"You said be flexible. I keep hearing that word, but from what farmers keep demanding, there doesn't seem to be any flexibility on their behalf."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, BSCFA Cmte of Mgmt
"Yes, I understand that, but the farmers have also been saying that the want something written that if any derivative from our bi-products or from the bagasse comes up, we would like to have shares on that and BSI has said no."

There is still no date announced as yet for a meeting to be held between BSI/ASR and the BSCFA.

We note that at Friday's meeting the BSCFA's outspoken and hardline CEO Oscar Alonzo was not even in the room, and yesterday, he declined an interview.

Channel 7

#498610 - 12/04/14 03:54 AM Re: Cane Farmers Tell Leader To Stand Strong [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BSI and BSCFA Back To Negotiating Table

Tonight, the cane farmers and the factory owners still have not signed a commercial agreement for the start of the crop season, but they are closer than they have been in almost a year.

In a Government facilitated meeting held today, BSI, BSCFA and the Sugar Industry Control Board met for 6 hours at the BSI Staff Club in Orange Walk where both sides tried their very best to arrive at a compromise on 3 major points of contention which is preventing a signed commercial agreement for the crop season.

As we’ve told you the farmers have directed their negotiators that to inform BSI that they will not deliver their cane unless an agreement, either long term or interim, has been signed.

The points they can’t agree on are the term of the agreement, the formula for bagasse and the ownership of the cane.

BSI is insisting on a 7 year contract while the farmers aren’t willing to give such a long term. Today, they proposed a 3 year contract, but it was not accepted.

On the other point, BSI says that when the cane is delivered, they own it, but the farmers say that they own it because they do not receive immediate payment for it from the factory owners. It is spread out over a period of payments made during the crop year.

And the third point, a formula for a bagasse payment still can’t be agreed upon.

So, with those issues still pending, we spoke with both sides about the progress made, and here’s what they told us:

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI

"We had a long session today, I think we had a long discussion on points that have been identified as holes which we still not are not on full agreement on and we came to the meeting to address these points. As you all are aware there was involvement on the part of the prime minister, deputy prime minister in crystallising those points of disagreement."

Daniel Ortiz

"Was there any meaningful progress?”

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA

"We believe, yes we did achieve something. We represented our proposals and we had enough time to discuss."

Belizario Carballo

"Clearly there is discussion on it. Both sides will have to consider certain things that were discussed. We have agreed that we will have to get back on those 3 points. There isn't at this point an agreement on those 3 points.”

Ezequiel Cansino

"I don't want to go to explain everything on those proposals. We did present proposals."

Daniel Ortiz

"Our information is suggesting that the beginning of this issue of trying to reach the target date, it has always been BSI that has been hardening it's position and the farmers have been trying to compromise; So that the crop date isn't jeopardised. How do you respond to those who say you have been too unduly stanching in your positions to call it a real negotiation?”

Belizario Carballo

"That's not correct. Clearly that is not the case, how ever you came to that view is completely beyond me. This is a very delicate matter. This is a process that has taken us some time to reach this point."


"Do you feel BSI came to this meeting as flexible as you were thinking?”

Ezequiel Cansino

"I think that they expected to finish today. Since our proposals that we presented to them, they say that they can't decide today. Even though that was the position of BSI today, we will also have to inform our cane farmers."

Daniel Ortiz

"Will they ever be a point where they sugar industry won't have to worry every year that we won't start on time? There is this adversarial business relationship between the cane farmers and the factory owners. Can that be achieved?”

Belizario Carballo

"Well that would be our hope and I think that is one of the reasons on the arguments on having a long term agreement. Clearly this, being in discussions negotiation agreement for 2 years has not really been as productive as you all appreciate. We will all want to have a clear agreement where we can start crops and don't have to be at this every year."

A new date has not been set as yet for the follow-up meeting, but both sides are cognisant of the season start date. Both sides agree that December 8, which is next Monday, is the ideal start time for the best returns, but if these points aren’t resolved before then, the crop will be delayed, again.

Channel 7

#498635 - 12/04/14 12:15 PM Re: Cane Farmers Tell Leader To Stand Strong [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Sugar cane farmers of the north continue to be anxious and overshadowed by a bitter sweet deadlock crisis in the sugar cane negotiations between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA which represents over 5,000 plus cane farmers of the North) and the multinational company ASR/BSI.

Uncertain whether the Sugar Cane Crop Season will begin December 8th, cane farmers have been diligently seeking to negotiate and come to terms with ASR/BSI on a least the date for this crop (taking into account conditions of the rainy weather and proper access to their cane farms).

Though a breakthrough in coming together to the table occurred yesterday, no substantial agreement relating to the 3 points of contention has conceded. According to BSI's Belizario Carballo yesterday, both sides are clearer on the three major areas they have not been able to agree on.

It can take as little as 3 days from the signing of an agreement to commence delivery of crop.

BSI has asked for time to consult BSFA's recent proposal.

In an article written by CB Hyde titled “BSCFA on firm ground” he writes: “ASR/BSI, a serious business, tried a little play to break the ranks of the BSCFA, and failed. The BSCFA response, that they are ready, eager to bring their crop to market when the bell rings…has received loud applauses from every corner.

When the crop is ready in the field, it is time to harvest. Somewhere in Nelson Reed’s book on the Caste War, there is a story that the Mayas were on the verge of glorious victory, that the Spanish elite were surrounded and about to surrender or be slaughtered. But the rains had come. The flood flies were swarming from their saturated nests. It was time to plant the sacred corn.

Earlier it did appear that the BSCFA was threatening to hold back on the harvest. It is really their only bargaining chip. But two can play this game. The ASR/BSI can threaten to hold back on milling. To their favour they have not made overt threats. But insisting that the farmers sign a long-term agreement in which the bagasse situation has not been resolved is unfair.”

This Corozal Daily has always been firmly behind the BSCFA and its farmers in their present position and continues to greatly support the sugar industry as a crucial part of our country's economic growth. They cannot and should not sign a seven year agreement which they consider one sided, unfair. The “zafra” – crop must begin. Roll the sugar cane crop season now.

A brief history of the Sugar Industry in Belize by Rachel Campbell PhD, University of North Carolina, Greensboro. "The first Europeans landed in Belize in 1511 after being shipwrecked. It was not until the 1670’s, however, that the British were drawn to the forest for wood-cutting logwood and mahogany because of its profitable export value. By the 1860s, the British were trying their hand at sugar production in the colony, adapting methods from their other Crown holdings.

The New World sugar industry has a long and varied colonial history and its effect on settlement patterns, political economics, food ways and other cultural traits reverberate today. Belize has a successful sugar cane industry. The country relies heavily on its sugar and rum exports and the development of the sugar industry has played a pivotal role in Belize. This industry has evolved significantly since its early development in terms of ownership, labor and methods of production.

Because the primary economic activity throughout most of the post-1492 period has been agriculture, several previous industrial sites have been protected, especially some of the old sugar mills, boiling houses and the distilleries.

Sugar cane was introduced into the Corozal District in 1848 by Yucatan, Mexico immigrants and was grown in small amounts and molasses and sugar produced by animal-powered mills. The British arrived and were initially more concerned with wood cutting than with growing crops, but eventually, sugar cane became the crop of choice for future immigrants to Belize. The industry took root and grew with the arrival of the American expatriates during late 1860s and 1870s. By the late 1890s and early 1900s the East Indians, brought in as indentured laborers, achieved success by use of local and imported labor sources.

The role of the sugar industry in Belize has evolved over the years from its introduction by the Yucatan immigrants where it was being grown on a small scale, to becoming a main source of income via export. Sugar, a plant transfer, was embedded in the economic and social system and used as a tool of colonialism and/or imperialism during that period to maintain control and authority over the workers.

During the periods of sugar production and export by the expatriates from the American South after the Civil War, imported labor and indentured laborers for planting, harvesting and exporting the crop were used. This was complicated by the fact that Great Britain had freed the country’s enslaved Africans and they were part of the society of British Honduras, now Belize. For Americans who sided with the Confederacy and fled after its collapse, now entering a world where slavery had been abolished, one asks how would they handle the free African population and maintain their perceptions of control and authority? Also, how would subsequent East Indian migrants to Belize, regard their relationship to sugar, labor patterns and slavery?

Much of this rich history of Belize is still buried physically – many of these sugar mill remnants are either hidden and/or buried architectural features. Some historic mills (mill sites or mills with historic machinery), however, are still standing and can be investigated through archaeological work. There is a treasure of archival data awaiting analysis to provide a glimpse into the collective history for different time periods in Belize, specifically related to the evolution of the sugar industry and comprising major factors such as migration, labor, technology and tourism.

Two of the old mills that were still standing and I had the privilege of visiting were the Serpon and Lamanai Sugar Mills as well as the Tower Hill sugar factory and the Forest Home cemetery. Serpon is located near the Sittee River in Stann Creek County and is no longer in use but its remnants are visible. It was one of the older sugar mills that once helped produce enough sugar to contribute to the country’s economy. It was established in 1863, after being bought and run by William Bowman, and there was also the mill located on the other side of the river which was owned by Young, Toledo and Company between 1868 and 1874. They were steam-powered mills and both were abandoned in 1910 when sugar became a more profitable venture in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts. Due to its previous huge economic contributions, this sugar mill has played a role in putting Belize on the map in terms of sugar production and exports.

At the Serpon Sugar Mill, the site is well cared for with cut grass and a small hut that houses pictures and some history of the sugar mill on the inside along its walls. It is all cleared out and very close to the main road. However, it was located on one of the less popular roads in the country so a visitor will have to know what they are looking for to find it and is unlikely to be stumbled upon by accident. The Serpon Sugar Mill is at the southern end of the country toward Punta Gorda in the Toledo District, which was the area where the Americans settled and where many died and were buried.

Lamanai, meaning “submerged crocodile,” is located on the banks of the New River Lagoon in the village of Indian Church and is famous for its Maya temples and ceremonial centers. A twelve-minute walk from these magnificent sites reveals the remnants of an old British sugar mill location that also originated in the American/East Indian migration era dating back to AD 1860-1875. This mill location was selected for sugar production in the nineteenth century because it was close to the New River. There was also a cheap source of Mayan labor nearby, however, the Maya eventually rebelled and then when diseases began to affect the mill workers and owners they eventually abandoned the mill.

There is a road traveled by car after getting off the highway to get to the Lamanai center and it is also accessible by boat via the New River. Here information is distributed about the Maya temples and their histories. However, the old Lamanai sugar mill, a short walk away along a dirt road, is not readily advertised unless specifically inquired about. Remaining elements include the boiler and boiling house and evaporation tank amongst others. The mill was probably in operation for only 15 years because of its unstable brick foundation being unable to handle the amount of vibration stemming from the iron operations of the mill.

Today the Tower Hill Sugar Factory in Orange Walk is the only operating sugar mill in Belize. It is owned by ASR/Belize Sugar Industries, Ltd. and is supplied with cane by more than 5000 farmers, from an estimated 40,000 acres each year.

The Forest Home Cemetery is the main burial ground where many of the southern Americans that fought for the Confederacy are buried; because they preferred to “keep to themselves”, they had their own separate burial areas in the Toledo District. The cemetery is remaining evidence of the community that founded Forest Home (Camille, 1986). Others are also buried at the PG cemetery in Punta Gorda, Belize according to local belief by residents.

This study provided a glimpse into how this particular plant, sugar cane, has influenced the political, economic, geographical and cultural landscapes of Belize. This sugar history is similar in many ways yet so unique when compared to many Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, my homeland, which is why I took interest in this particular study area and country. It also demonstrates how the colonization and plantation history of the country has been incorporated today through technological advances to promote the tourism industry and encourage not just the leisure seekers, but the more culturally-inclined tourist to Belize".

Power to the sugar cane farmers in the struggle!!

Corozal Daily


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