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#498804 - 12/09/14 03:55 AM Deadlines For Start Of Season Passes:No Crop Still
Marty Online   happy
December eighth - that's the date that had been set for the starts of the 2014 - 2015 sugar crop season. But that day came and went and nothing happened: the industry remains at a standstill and with 1.4 million tonnes of sugarcane in the field - the losses now begin to mount.

It's a dire situation, and the Prime Minister cancelled a trip to a Caricom-Cuba summit to return home yesterday for crisis meetings today. The first was held with the executive and branch chairmen of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. That took place at 10:00 am at the Biltmore - and by 11:30 - it was over. We spoke to both sides:..

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA
"The issue was on the bagasse that they didn't agree on the proposal. So we present to the Prime Minister the proposal that we had presented to them."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"The BSCFA presented a proposal to BSI before. Today what you all presented to the Prime Minister, was that even more flexible or are you all sticking to what you presented to the BSI?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA
"Yes, we believe that it is more flexible. In deed we are going too far being flexible, but we are trying our best to get to an agreement and we hope that this time we get through with this impasse and if not we will seek other options."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Have you communicated to the Prime Minister that it is reaching that point where farmers are becoming increasingly incline to protest?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com. of Mgmt, BSCFA
"Obviously and he is well aware of that. I don't know if he was just kidding, but he said in that case he would be ready to join us on that protest if that is the solution for us to get in an agreement."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"All I will do is to repeat again that I think the famers are showing a great deal of flexibility and I believe that we are in the position where we can get this thing done."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Are you a little bit disappointed in the position taken by BSI/ASR at this point to still be holding out (so to speak)?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Well I would be if after I meet with them there is no agreement."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you feel the farmers are justified if they would choose to stage a protest?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"We have this last chance. I think it is a last chance and I believe the farmers will wait to see what comes out of my discussion with ASR."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you confident you will be able to move them (you said you don't want to talk specific) in the critical areas?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I believe that there is the possibility there is room in which to maneuver."

Jules Vasquez
"Will we have the commencement of a season before Christmas you think?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"That is certainly the hope and the expectation, yes I feel."

Jules Vasquez
"That we will have it before Christmas."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I feel yes."

Jules Vasquez
"But you think any chance this week?"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"I don't think before next week."

And so that's where it stands tonight - definitely no start to the crop season this week - and both sides remaining at a standoff. The Prime Minister is expected to meet with ASR/BSI on Wednesday or Thursday - but it hasn't been confirmed yet.

Channel 7

#498838 - 12/09/14 01:27 PM Re: Deadlines For Start Of Season Passes:No Crop Still [Re: Marty]
Marty Online   happy

“Déjà vu” in sugar industry

Instead of overseeing the delivery of freshly harvested stalks of sugar cane to the Tower Hill milling factory in Orange Walk Town today, which was designated as the optimal date for the start of the 2014/2015 sugar crop season, the executives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) headed to Belize City for another round of talks with Prime Minister Dean Barrow and other government officials in hopes of bringing an end to a continual gridlock which has effectively stifled the sugar industry for the second consecutive year.

After months of negotiations, which resulted in several proposals, counterproposals and exchanging of letters affirming such, the local cane farmers’ association and the sugar processors are back at square one and thus, the BSCFA, in its efforts to get the season started and avoid the degree of losses that were experienced last season, sat down once again today with PM Barrow, Deputy PM and Minister of Agriculture, Gaspar Vega, and representatives of the relevant government entities, including the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB), at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel to finalize a solution to the crisis.

When he emerged from the session almost two hours later, Barrow, who aborted the CARICOM-Cuba Summit that he was scheduled to attend, which is currently taking place in Havana, Cuba, told us about the importance of the meeting, and where the industry stands at this critical point.

He said, “Clearly, it’s important because we need the crop to start. Without the crop, the entire economy of the north will be terribly affected; lots of farmers who owe money to the banks will face the pain of foreclosure, and it’s just unthinkable that we shouldn’t have a crop. The idea is, again, just to get clear from the farmers precisely what their position is, and thereafter, to take that to BSI/ASR in an effort to bridge the remaining gaps. I don’t think those remaining gaps are huge. I think they are bridge-able, and so I will be making every effort to get ASR [American Sugar Refineries] and the BSCFA to finally agree.”

While reiterating that the farmers are showing “a great deal of flexibility” in their adjusted proposals, Barrow was reluctant to get into the “specifics” of the BSCFA’s strategy, citing his upcoming meeting with the principals of ASR.

“We’re in a position where we can get this thing done [because] I believe that there is room in which to maneuver, [since] certainly the hope is to have a [sugar cane crop] season before Christmas”, he remarked, as he informed us that his only disappointment would be if there is still no agreement after his meeting with ASR.

In the meanwhile, BSCFA Committee of Management chairman, Ezekiel Cansino, acknowledged that the cañeros are experiencing pressure as a result of the unending impasse, and therefore, the association had decided to bend to BSI/ASR’s demands in relation to the quantum payment for bagasse; however, they expect something in return.

“We believe it [BSCFA’s proposal] is more flexible [than before] and as cane farmers, we feel that indeed we are going too far insofar as being flexible, but we are trying our best to get to an agreement, and we hope that this time, we get through this impasse and if not, we are seeking other options”, Cansino commented.

Those “other options”, he said, include a protest which the PM has since been made aware of, and which, we understand, he (Barrow) even promised to join if needs be.

While the BSCFA is saying that it is being as flexible as it can be, BSI/ASR has been hesitant to make any accommodations on its 51-cent bagasse payment proposal, which Cansino told us that the association might have to take for the sake of the season, and by extension, their livelihoods.

At this time, there is no word on the deferred date for the start of crop, but it is almost certain that it will not be this week.



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