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#499023 - 12/15/14 09:50 AM Sugar season on its way
Marty Offline
The 2014-2015 sugar season may start as early as next Friday after the general assembly of the Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association accepted the latest proposal made by Belize Sugar Industries on Sunday.

The cañeros met at Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico in Corozal, where they agreed to the proposal brokered with BSI by Prime Minister Dean Barrow last week.

Ezekiel Cansino, chief executive officer of the BSCFA, explained that with the proposal now accepted, their attorneys can now draft up the necessary paperwork.

“We will communicate the acceptance to BSI so our attorney’s can draft up an agreement to be signed either tomorrow afternoon or Tuesday,” Cansino said, “after that we are hoping to get the crop started hopefully Friday.”

Vice Chair of the BSCFA, Alfredo Ortega, explained that he is disappointed that the farmers accepted BSI’s proposal without further negotiation, because he feels that a better deal could have been worked out.

“We have sent two year in negotiation just to arrive back at square one,” Ortega said.

He added that with the poor condition of the sugar roads, he is hopeful but thinks it unlikely that the season will begin by Friday.

The farmers agreed to three essential points at the meeting, first that they would commit to the agreement with no room for negotiations before three years; second, that within a year BSI, the Government of Belize and the other stake holders must come together to draft a sugar industry sustainability policy; and lastly, that they concede that the factory owns the cane at the point of sale.

The Reporter

#499149 - 12/19/14 10:03 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Things Still Not Sweet in Sugarland

On Monday we told you that the impasse in the sugar industry was at an end - both sides had agreed to the Prime Minister's compromise package and it was only left to sign the final agreement to make it official. But the devil is in the details and all this week, that agreement has been in the shaping. The Chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association was supposed to sign it today - but at the last minute the Association's proofreaders saw one item in there which they felt both sides had agreed to leave out. No one seems quite sure whether this inclusion was intentional, accidental or a genuine misunderstanding - but the cane farmers sent it back to BSI for excision. We understand that the offending clause has been excised, but now the signing has been put back to Friday.

So then, when will the crop season start since it was supposed to start tomorrow? Informed estimates tell us that the earliest it can start is within three days of the signing - which would put it at the earliest Monday, but most likely Tuesday.

Channel 7


The National Trade Union Congress of Belize denounces the conduct of ASR/BSI in their seeking to change the terms of the previously settled agreement without going back to the cane-farmers; having already conceded to the oppressive and unfair terms pushed by ASR/BSI with the intervention of no less than the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

The latest blatant attempt by ASR/BSI to undermine the cane farmers comes in the form of them now not wanting the legally established Sugar industry Control Board to be removed as the regulating entity. They want by the agreement to slip in their own entity created and named the Harvesting Delivery and Control Unit effectively being an arm of ASR/BSI; and in contravention of the law. In the absence of negotiations with the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA); this provision was included in the draft agreement.

BSCFA has refused to concede to this provision because; apart from it being illegal, it is a blatant indication that ASR/BSI cannot be trusted and will stop at nothing to control and disenfranchise the farmers.

NTUCB opines that the bedrock of the sugar industry, the hardworking sugar cane farmers have been wrongfully swayed to give in to three points of negotiation that are already to their detriment. The NTUCB expresses it disappointment that the Prime Minster of this country would support the position of ASR/BSI over that of the famers.

The reality that the sugar cane farmers feel urgently pressed; to begin crop and have in essence, decided to proceed with signing off an agreement is tantamount to negotiations under duress. This kind of climate, compromises the very tenets upon which bargaining is built and is a sure fire way to result in the negotiating party; with the upper-hand coming out with an unfair advantage.

The NTUCB sees the current status of the agreement process as exactly nothing less, compounded by the complicity of the government and its political directorate.

The NTUCB says to the Directors of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, all eighteen strong, DO NOT SIGN any agreement. Keep the negotiation window open as a signed agreement at this time; will only close off all potentials for the farmers to keep what they had on the table.

There is NO WAY these farmers, settling for fifty one cents per ton of bagasse as opposed to the $10.00 could be indication of negotiations of parties of equal bargaining power. The farmers agreeing tether dangerously on the edge of losing their ownership of the sugar cane; which has never been asked of them since the inception of the industry. This is indicative of the level of dominance and control ASR/BSI is positioning itself to exercise over the industry to their exclusion and with the blessing of the very government that was supposed to pressure for the best interest of the farmers; not the multi-national corporation.

NTUCB calls on the farmers to wake up and denounce the trickery that has been played on them and to realize it is not too late to stop the signing of this oppressive and economically crippling agreement being deceptively visited on them.

Wake up Directors – DON”T SIGN! Stand up and fight for the industry your forefathers have literally shed blood, sweat and tears to build.

NTUCB stands in solidarity with you! DON’T SIGN!!!

#499182 - 12/20/14 09:56 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Sugar Crop In Peril, No Final Agreement, NTUCB Urges Farmers Not To Sign

When we left you last night, the signing of the final agreement between BSI and the Cane Farmers had been delayed by confusion over controversial clause the ASR/BSI seemed to have slipped in there.

It involves a body called the Sugar Cane Production Committee which the factory wants to replace with a new entity called the Harvest and Delivery Control Unit. The Production committee is a Government entity which oversees which cane is accepted and which isn't. But according to the farmers, BSI's proposed Harvest and Delivery Control Unit would have more influence from the factory owners and not enough oversight from the Government to protect the farmers from being victims and their cane unfairly rejected.

So, it was rejected at the negotiation stage. And the farmers say that BSI then slipped it back in. But BSI says it was always there, it was never taken out, and it's just that no one was paying proper attention to it.

BSI said it is willing to amend it - but the farmers want it out. While that was hanging unresolved..

literally overnight, things took a decidedly different course, fuelled in no small part by an inflammatory statement coming out of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. Last night at 10:30, the union issued a bold statement saying, quote:

The NTUCB says to the Directors of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, all eighteen strong, DO NOT SIGN any agreement."

It goes on:

"NTUCB calls on the farmers to wake up and denounce the trickery that has been played on them and to realize it is not too late to stop the signing of this oppressive and economically crippling agreement."

That strident denunciation followed up by a blast text saying pretty much the same thing, changed the temperature of the dialogue completely - and culminated this afternoon in the voluntary shutdown of BSI offices and preparation for a riot - which did not happen. But that's just an indication of how tense it got. Belizario Carballo explained:..

Diodi Novelo, member, Cane Farmer Negociating Team
"BSI is not playing clean. BSI want to introduce that AGCU for them to be in control of the situation in delivering of cane and to me if I was there in office with them I would put my point that this is the clear opportunity to tell BSI that we are going back to square one, we are going to start to negotiate because you are not playing clean. You have already entered something we have already rejected."

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
"Decisions of BSI/ASR and Belize Cane Farmers Association gravely impacts our employees first and foremost. But more importantly it impacts the nation. People have not been keeping track of this issue and where we are right now is going to be a grave disservice and injustice if these farmers go ahead and sign this agreement with BSI/ASR. I don't know how much you all were updated yesterday with the trickery they tried on them when they tried to insert a clause. That trickery is not only an insult to the Cane Farmers Association, but it's an insult to this nation because the law is clear as to who could be the entity that regulates the quality of cane. We realize that they are taking advantage of the farmers. This is the rest. If nobody can't see it, then we will show them it. Why pressure them into an agreement that makes them give up the ownership of their cane?"

Daniel Ortiz
"How do you answer to the criticism that many hand spoil the pot and Mr. Chris Coye, their attorney is already there and you are inserting yourself?"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd
"Let me tell you, we are not even hands, we are whole body in and we cannot spoil the pot. I am not here as the legal representative of anyone. I am here as the National Trade Union Congress and as the president of CWU and thank God yes I do have a law degree, so the b!@#*t on the farmers, when they try to insert a new clause cannot happen."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA
"The proposal asking them to do that. They gave us part of it but it was not completely and today we decide that this will be the last chance that we will be sending the proposal to include the SCPC as the regulating body and if that doesn't happen, well, a decision will have to be made and we have to come back again and decide what will be the next step."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"People are saying that if negotiations fail at this point, they want the BSCFA, the cane farmers to go back to square one, to go right back to the beginning. Are you in agreement with that?"

Ezequiel Cansino
"If that is the demand of the people, then we have to do what they are demanding us to do."

Alfred Ortega, Member, Negotiating Team
"I would really want to ask the support of the farmers moving forward not to support the signing of this agreement in the way it is."

BSI was supposed to have held a press conference to explain their side of the story, but when we showed up, we were informed that it had been cancelled, with no explanation offered.

Just before news time however, BSI's Chief Financial Officer, Belizario Carballo, called us back and granted us a phone interview in which he explained what happened with the supposed offending clause in the final draft.

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"In that draft agreement we introduced no new change. The draft agreement that was sent on Monday was based on the last draft agreement that we presented to the BSCFA on the 9th October, which was the last date when we sat to negotiate and so that was the last agreement that we had before we met with the Prime Minister. And so, once we met with the Prime Minister we updated that draft with the three points that were agreed, that was surfaced as points of contention and we submitted that revised draft to the BSCFA."

Daniel Ortiz
"What happened to the harvest and delivery?"

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"The harvest and delivery as were reflected in the draft that we presented to the BSCFA from the 9th October were identical to the draft that we currently presented. This notion that somehow BSI updated something and try to slip it by someone is really untrue and I think it needs to be clarified. What has occurred is that we are now down to one point of disagreement."

Daniel Ortiz
"Persons who have always disagreed with this compromise agreement are now agitating for the farmers to take this deal off the table completely and reject the games that you've made to go back to Square one."

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"We are well aware of the misrepresentations and the distractions that are being introduced by those who are seeking to frustrate and stall the process of reaching an agreement. As you indicate those elements exists and we are well aware of it and we have heard those elements in the media this week and over the next week we will seek to clarify those points in more details, but for now, we have taken out a press release this evening to address fundamentally from our point of view how the process has evolved. The process is taking some time."

This evening, BSI sent out a press release which says, quote,

"in a considered effort to finalize an agreement, BSI further revised its position on this matter in the revised Agreement submitted to the BSCFA today….BSI accepts that the process and criteria for cane rejection would be developed and agreed between the parties in consultation with the SCPC. This provides for the SCPC to administer the cane rejection procedures agreed to by the parties. BSI has in no instance tried to undermine the SCPC."

We wait and see whether that will be enough to appease the farmers. As it stands right now, no agreement has been signed - and no one knows when one will be signed - much less when the season will open.

And while that matter lies unresolved, in the undercard, we note that the Government has openly clashed with the NTUCB. A release issued from GOB this morning referred to the NTUCB's inflammatory press release.

It says, quote "GOB derides as paternalistic and arrogant in the extreme, the NTUCB release regarding the agreement reached between the BSCFA and ASR/BSI. The NTUCB release characterizes the agreement as oppressive and something foisted on cane farmers with the connivance of GOB. This is notwithstanding the fact that the agreement was openly debated and approved by BSCFA Directors, its Negotiating Committee, and Its General Assembly. It is therefore incredibly patronizing and just plain wrong for the NTUCB to think and say that it knows better than the farmers; and…in effect condemn, a decision of the BSCFA taken in the full exercise of their judgment and democratic determination as to what was in their best interest." End quote.

Channel 7

#499266 - 12/23/14 09:39 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

BSI Compromises, Cane Farmers Say They Don’t See It

Tonight the standoff in the sugar industry continues - and it's clear there will be no crop before Christmas. There were rumors today that there would be a movement to protest against the cane farmers chairman Ezequiel Cansino - but when we passed the cane farmers association office - everyone was just waiting on their fair trade cheque.

More on that later, but The news tonight though is that BSI has budged, and removed what the offending clause 2.3 in the draft of the final agreement. That's the one that deals with a new creature proposed by the BSI called the Harvesting and Delivery Control Unit. The farmers say that BSI is proposing it to take the place of the Sugar Cane Production Committee - which is an independent government-appointed body. This is the body that determines which cane will be accepted and which rejected.

Well, over the weekend BSI says in the spirit of compromise, it removed the reference to the Harvesting and Delivery Control Unit in clause 2.3. Financial Director, Belizario Carballo explained:

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"Despite our position on the matter, we reviewed it over the weekend and over the weekend we resent the association a revised draft which removes that section from that sentence from that clause 2.3. And so now that clause 2.3 essentially simply says that prior to cane being received, the cane will be examine and it may be rejected on the basis of criteria and processes that are developed and agreed by the parties and in consultation with the SCPC. So the sentence that read BSI shall have the right to reject cane before it is weighed and ticketed at the factory scales has been removed. That haven't been the case, we feel that we have now cleared the way for there to be an agreement."

Jules Vasquez
"So what happens next sir?"

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"Next, we expect to have an agreement as early as possible."

They expected an answer today, but they didn't get one. And why? Because the farmers say it's not that simple or straightforward. They still have concerns that in the revised draft - BSI is still trying to slip in its Harvesting and Delivery Control Unit. Today we spoke to Chairman Ezequiel Cansino - he said that even with the revised draft, there are still concerns:..

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA
"Still there are small concerns, which we don't see it specify exactly who will be in charge of that. It's not so clear. But we want to discuss with the 18 directors and have the advice of the attorney."

Jules Vasquez
"The BSI is saying its completely in the hands if the SCPC, but from looking at the agreement, you are not satisfied that....."

Ezequiel Cansino
"That's the concern of some directors and we will have to take the opinion of the 18 directors."

Jules Vasquez
"Now I am told that the directors are split - that some wanted, some don't."

Ezequiel Cansino
"We have some directors who are advising not to sign it, about 3-4 of them. But the majority is saying that we have to sign it because people are asking for that."

Jules Vasquez
"Is there any chance it might go back to another general assembly?"

Ezequiel Cansino
"I don't really believe that it will happen either before Christmas. Maybe after Christmas we will be able to have another...."

Jules Vasquez
"But if the directors can't find a majority, then you would have to go back to an assembly."

Ezequiel Cansino
"Yes, I have to go back to assembly."

Jules Vasquez
"So, no rest from stress for you this Christmas?"

Ezequiel Cansino
"No. I hope that we could finish before Christmas, but that's not possible."

Cansino was waiting for the start of a meeting of the directors to consider the new revised draft - but it seems that they couldn't get all the directors together. Indeed, we didn't get that sense of urgency - and that may be because both sides are pretty much reconciled to the fact that the season cannot start this week:..

Jules Vasquez
"Let's say that it's the best case scenario and they agree to sign. How soon is the soonest the season can start?"

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"Well, I would prefer to wait until we sign because last week we spent the whole week speculating; if we sign Tuesday, we start then... and we spent the whole week speculating and nothing happens. The response is let's wait until we sign. The parties at that point plan when is the best time to start."

Jules Vasquez
"We won't have a cane season open before Christmas?"

Ezequiel Cansino
"No. That's not possible."

Jules Vasquez
"Most likely early in the new year if best case scenario."

Ezequiel Cansino
"Yes, I think so, but if many branches are calling and they want to start on the 27th, but we are not sure about that."

And so while the season is delayed there are over 1.3 million tonnes of cane in the fields awaiting harvest. That would be a bigger crop than last year - and the December eighth start date was set to create at least a 6 month window to grind all that cane before the rains start in June of next year. But while that window is getting smaller, the cane quality is actually improving. Carballo explained:

Belizario Carballo
"The delay is helping with the quality because the cane is having more time to sort of and the fields are getting dry and there is the more consolidation of sucrose, so the quality will be better. So we are sacrificing quantity, but we are getting a bit of benefit on the quality."

And so while that is one very modest upside - other than that, the prognosis is down all around. And the bad guy of the moment seems to be BSI. In press releases last week, the NTUCB and the Government pounced on them for bad faith tactics. It seems the government one really got under their skins - we got feedback today:..

Jules Vasquez
"Why would the government which is intimately familiar with these negotiations, why would it say ASR/BSI must be equally reprimanded for their bad faith in having trying to undermine the SCPC?"

Belizario Carballo
"To be honest, we are very aggrieved about that statement. We feel it a reaction to the NTUCB statement that was based on a misinformation. We find it particularly unhelpful in condemning one of the parties that is engaged in a very delicate and complicated and difficult negotiation trying to reach an agreement to go out and seek to condemn it, we find it very unhelpful to a process that had in fact been advanced by the intervention of the Prime Minister. We find it very unhelpful for there to be this level of condemnation of one of the parties at a time when there was communication."

Jules Vasquez
"What you are saying sir with greatest respect it doesn't really make a lot of sense because the government in its first paragraph blast the NTUCB, so then how can it be that government is reading from the same script as the NTUCB? The government is very clear on this. It's not that the government is reading from NTUCB script."

Belizario Carballo
"How can that be so clear when I am telling you that there is no item introduced and I can actually show you the documentation to prove it."

Channel 7

#499310 - 12/24/14 09:50 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

PM Says Both Sides In Sugar Dispute Inching Towards Resolution

There's still no movement either way in the sugar industry standoff tonight. The Prime Minister today told the media that he's gotten involved as a good faith broker between the two sides and feels they are closer to a resolution:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"To me to be the single remaining point of contention is one that I feel can be resolved and in terms of the conversation I had with Mr. Montalvo last night and again this morni9ng just before 10 o' clock. I say in very cautious fashion that I believe we are closer to a resolution certainly than we were yesterday and over the weekend. I gave him the form of words that it appears will satisfy the farmers. The two lawyers, his lawyers Michael Young and Chris Coye were to ensure that they were on the same page where that is concern and of course Mr. Montalvo needed to get naturally the authorization from his principals to proceed. At 10 o' clock he said to me that he hope to have a definitive answer for me by noon today. If as I hope that answer is yes, I have ask the deputy to communicate to the farmers or to Mr. Cansino, the chairman of the management committee that this is where we are and that if we get a positive answer by noon hopefully the directors can meet later this afternoon, agree to sign off since they would have gotten the language they are demanding and hopefully thereafter we can have a crop possibly at the start of next week if not sooner."

Compromise Opponents Call For General Assembly Of Cane Farmers

But, while that is what he's pulling for, there are forces in the industry working against that. Four of the 18 branch directors have written to the BSCFA Committee of Management saying that they want to go back to a General Assembly on Sunday December 28th to have the membership decide on the way ahead. From what we understand of the Association by-laws - three directors can ask for a meeting - so they appear to have the numbers. But the Prime Minister said that while he doesn't know the bye-laws, his position is that once the objectionable language about the Harvesting and Delivery Control Unit has been removed, there's nothing new that can come out of another general membership meeting:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Need to go back for a second vote on precisely the draft... on precisely the points that would now have been resolved in favor of the farmers in accordance with the position taken by the farmers. I do get the sense that there are those who clearly don't want to see an agreement sign including the NTUCB who I have to say is absolutely irresponsible in a way that I find mindboggling. But I can't say what is or is not to happen in terms of this move to have on the part of those that are clearly anti-the agreement, second bite at the cherry. I would hope that that doesn't happen, but I really don't know what the rules say and what the rules don't say."

Who Got The Best of The BSI Cane Compromise?

At the top of our newscast, we showed you our interview with Prime Minister Barrow in which he discussed the continued delay of the sugar crop season despite his government's best efforts to break the stalemate between the factory owners and cane farmers.

Part of the reason that the 18 directors don't want to sign the compromise agreement is that they have misgivings about certain language in the draft agreement.

Fuelled by agitation of the NTUCB and Naysayers within their own ranks, these directors are trying to convince their follow branch chairmen to back out and return to square one of the negotiations for a commercial agreement.

So, amidst the tough criticism of the compromise hammered out by himself and Deputy Gaspar Vega, does Prime Minister Barrow still think the compromise agreement is beneficial to both sides? He gave us hiw views today:

"And you agree that both sides got a fair deal?"

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"I certainly think so. The farmers very clearly made some concessions, I said right at the start when it appeared to me that a breakthrough had occurred, that they demonstrated tremendous flexibility, but given all that was involved, given how important the crop and the industry are to the farmers - given that absent ASR/BSI we won't have industry - it struck me that the concessions they made were not concessions that in fact cost them to their with respect to BSI, they got by way of a draft agreement the longevity, the predictability, the certainty that they said they needed, they also undertook to make a kind of investment in the industry including both, in terms of capacity expansion where the milling process is concern, but also in terms of assisting the farmers to increase productivity - to get better yields - they undertook to make that sort of additional investment as the quid pro quo for the farmers agreeing to on the face of it a 7 years deal, so all together I did think that we reach a point where the compromise ended up being fair to both sides."

That's pretty much the same sentiment that BSI's Chief Finance Officer had when we asked him about it last week Friday evening. Here's that conversation with Belizario Carballo:

Belizario Carballo - CFO, BSI
"BSCFA has agreed to a long term agreement. They have also agreed to clarify the bagasse payments until BELCOGEN becomes profitable and they have also agreed with respect to the ownership of cane. On BSI side, we have conceded to pay a quantum for bagasse. We have agreed to backdate that payment to last crop. We have also agreed to review the bagasse payment once BELCOGEN becomes profitable and we as well agree to discuss any new bi-products with farmers and to negotiate any potential investment and or revenue participation by cane farmers if any new bi-product is determine to be viable in the future."

But, the minority within the cane farming community who do not want their association to sign this agreement say that the farmers are giving up far more than they are getting in return. Alfredo Ortega, the former Vice-Chair of the Association's Committee of Management has become one of the most vocal personalities to speak out against signing of this agreement. Last week Friday, when we asked him why it is that he and other farmers see this agreement a bad move for farmers, he discussed each of the 3 compromise points with us. Here's how he described the flaws:

Right now, the decision remains in the hands of the 18 Directors as to whether or not the association will sign the agreement.

Channel 7

#499338 - 12/25/14 09:43 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Farmers Inch Toward A Sugar Crop

Tonight, both sides in the sugar industry standoff have inched closer to a compromise – but they have not agreed. The eighteen directors of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association met this morning in Orange Walk to consider the updated proposal from BSI. The proposal was crafted with the words of the farmers – after BSI caved in and omitted all references to the Harvest and Delivery Control Unit. So, did the Directors accept it? Well, the short version of that story is that they didn’t – but it seems that they are inclined to pending a small change. They have sent back the document to their attorney for one small amendment on that same clause 2.3. It seems the most recent draft still seems to suggest that the Sugar Cane Production Committee, known as the SCPC would not have the final say on what cane gets accepted by the factory. The farmers want that to be unequivocally fair in the final agreement and so have sent it back again.

There is no confirmation tonight if an increasingly impatient BSI will find this agreeable – but from what we are told it’s fairly innocuous and should not pose a problem. Of course, optimists have been saying that for two weeks, and the stalemate continues…so, the best that can be said tonight is that we must wait and see.

But, there are significant undercurrents amongst the cane farmers also at play. As we told you, four directors wrote to the Cane Farmers Association asking to go back to a general assembly. That was voted down at today’s meeting – as the majority of the directors seem to be in favour of signing the agreement and getting on with the season. That, and the fact that trying to put together a general membership meeting during the Christmas break would be very difficult. Chairman of the committee of management Ezequiel Cansino explained today:…

Ezequiel Cansino - Chair, Com of Mgmt, BSCFA

“The 4 directors are not in favour of the signing of the agreement, but today, we consulted and had a discussion about that topic. And In reality, some directors put the concerns of their branches that they don’t see it convenient to go to an assembly at this moment. They have many reasons and they say that we can have a meeting from cane farmer to cane farmer. We’re already hearing that the cane farmers need more financial assistance from the Fair Trade funds. And sincerely, that would cause us more damage as an organisation in the Fair Trade.”

And while that Fair Trade matter is pending – so is the entire cane season – and the calendar is working against them tonight. That’s because it takes 190 milling days to mill the estimated 1.3 million tons of cane that’s out there in the fields. That would push the end of season date to July first, which is in the heart of the rainy season –and rain greatly diminishes cane quality.

And then, subtract 15 days of stoppage for maintenance, Easter and public and bank holidays - and the end of season date would be pushed back to the third week in July. Experts say the schedule is possible but it all depends on the rains – if they are heavy, cane quality will suffer.

So, still, tonight, with the Christmas break just hours away, there is no final agreement between both sides to report – and no proposed date for the start of the sugar crop.

Channel 7

#499438 - 12/31/14 09:37 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Sugar Saga Continues

The sugar saga - will it ever end? Well, not before Sunday. That's when the general membership of the Sugar Cane Farmers Association will hold a special meeting to review the entire agreement with BSI and vote on whether their chairman should sign it.

But that's not how Chairman Ezequiel Cansino wanted it to go - he was hoping to sign the new agreement with BSI this morning before any injunction to restrain him could be activated.

But, it was not to be.....his hopes were taken down by a technicality: 5 of the branch chairmen requested a special meeting - and the rules say, they have the power to do so.

That decision was made this morning in Orange Walk Town and 7News was there:..

Jules Vasquez reporting
A small crowd of 16 protestors gathered outside the BSCFA office this morning. Their signs in English and Spanish called for Chairman Ezequiel Cansino's resignation - and said that to sign the agreement with BSI was suicide.

Ofelia Montejo, Corozal - 35 Acres
"At no point as cane farmers we have said we want a riot or we want a strike. We want the crop to go on, but we must not hang our self for that cause because the 3 clauses they have given to us have no benefit for the farmers. The fight is not with the government. The fight is with BSI and ASR because they are trying to under [ay us for our hard work in the fields. This cane clause will damage us down the road and that is why I am here because I don't want the directors to sign."

And while they were organized to do the work outside, five branch chairman led the effort inside with a petition to present the full 19 page agreement to the general membership.

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"On the bi-laws it reads that it should comply and that's what we will do to the cane farmers. We decided that we will be having this special general meeting this Sunday 4th January."

It's a letdown for Cansino who was pushing for the agreement to be signed today:

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"That was my expectation to have it signed today, but I have to go with the majority and also with the bi-laws of the association, so on the request of the 5 directors for this special general meeting, they are pointing that we give the membership the entire agreement that will be signed and for them to give us their blessing on that. That's the purpose."

Jules Vasquez
"Is the agreement in English or Spanish?"

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"We were discussing that also and we will try to make it available in Spanish for the cane farmers."

Fred Ortega, Calling for Special General Meeting
"I wouldn't call it a victory, but what I would say is that I think that at least they listened to our voice because what we were looking for is for the farmers to have a better knowledge on what the contents are within the agreement itself - the content of it. We want the farmers to clearly understand and to clearly analyze what the impact would be with those 3 points and the rest that are within the content. Personally I would want to see a shift on it and to continue negotiations and to get something more beneficial to the farmers."

Ofelia Montejo, Corozal - 35 Acres
"Some of our farmers do not understand English and the lawyer that was there reads about 15 minutes English paper and our farmers don't understand."

Fred Ortega
"I don't think that it will be done in Spanish, I wouldn't want to put my hand on fire for it. But I think that in English as is it will be presented to the farmers."

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"We hope that the membership gets to understand exactly what we will be presenting. That's why we are trying to translate it in Spanish and find someone with that capacity to explain it also in Spanish. It's the first time that this will happen and indeed we were discussing that there are points or pages that is not necessary to be given to them because it refers how the procedures will be done specifically for some employees at the queue or at the laboratory."

So a full agreement has never been circulated before - and it's not exactly what you would call light reading - so are they simply using this to go for a second vote upon that which has already been decided?

Jules Vasquez
"Are you trying to get a second vote on those 3 points of compromise which you feel are advantage taking of the farmers? Are you trying to get a second vote on that by taking the entire agreement there?"

Fred Ortega
"The voting will be based on the entire agreement and that is part as you rightly said. But we want the farmers to understand clearly what those 3 points are and what the contents of those 3 points. As you rightly said, yes we are looking forward to a second voting if we could call that a second voting."

And so on Sunday Ortega sees it as a chance to save the industry, while Cansino sees it as an opportunity to move ahead:

Jules Vasquez
"What is your greatest hope and expectation to come out of Sunday's meeting?"

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"To have an acceptance by the membership and to sign this agreement as soon as possible, maybe Monday and to start the crop, because the start of the crop is very important for the cane farmers right now and I would say that the majority are willing to harvest their product."

Fred Ortega
"So what are looking for is that farmers reconsider, but if in the reconsideration they come out with the same issue, well then, we cannot do anymore because as you know the masses of the farmers are the ones who have the final say in any issue of the association."

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"My branch is not agreeing with this special general meeting because they say that as a branch and being the largest one, we are being the most affected because we are losing a lot of revenues since our production for this year is over 150,000 tons."

Jules Vasquez
"So your branch feels that it is being held hostage?"

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA

Fred Ortega
"None of us are stopping the crop to begin. All of us want a crop to go ahead and we have said this from all the interviews that has happen. Personally, I have said that on all the interviews, we want a crop to start, but it is BSI that has said if we don't sign an agreement, we cannot start a crop and that shouldn't be like that."

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"If we start January, we are putting at least 20% that will not be harvested. So maybe we will be able to harvest 80%."

Jules Vasquez
"How much is that worth, 20%?"

Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman - BSCFA
"If you multiply that - we are talking San Estevan, it might be more than 30,000 on the field left."

All 18 branch Directors attended today's meeting and a majority of them supported the motion to go back to their membership.

Channel 7

#499543 - 01/05/15 10:18 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Farmers have voted to not sign an agreement with BSI and join with Lucilo Teck who has requested for a legal mandamus for the SICB to set a date for the start of the crop season!


Cane farmers reject proposal by Association’s executive, BSI/ASR, despite attorney’s advice

Despite advice from their attorney, cane farmers on Sunday rejected a proposed agreement negotiated between their leadership, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and BSI/ASR.

The farmers voted during a general meeting in San Roman, Corozal after their attorney, Christopher Coye said he felt the proposal was an acceptable one.

The cane farmers also passed a resolution to join fellow cane farmer, Lucilio Teck in applying to the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, forcing the Sugar Cane Control Board to set a date for the start of the crop season.

Meanwhile, the cane farmers also passed a motion, making another demand of monies from the Fairtrade funds to them. This time, their demand is for $4 million, which is $1.5 million more than their previous demand for Christmas spending.

The Reporter

Farmers say NO to agreement

The general assembly of cane-farmers got underway at 10:00 a.m. this morning. There was a massive contention as a majority of farmers were determined to have attorney Audrey-Matura Shepherd speak to the assembly. We are told that the cane famers gathered at the Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico is the largest ever at a general assembly, approximately 2000 farmers as of 10:00 a.m. with more arriving.

Cane-farmers have voted unanimously to reject the proposed agreement between the BSCFA and ASR/BSI. The Association has been instructed by farmers to work with attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd to seek legal action, including an Order of Mandamus, to demand the SICB to start the crop.

Power to the cane farmers in the struggle!

Corozal Daily

#499573 - 01/06/15 10:03 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Cane Farmers Reject Compromise Deal The Second Time Around

No deal but let's continue to negotiate. That's what the cane farmers told BSI and the Government at yesterday's special general meeting.

As we told you, the farmers had first accepted the Government-facilitated compromise on December thirteenth. But after three weeks of going back and forth on the language of the final agreement, and 5 hours of passionate agitation yesterday, the farmers took the resolution that they will not be forced into signing the agreement just so that the crop can begin.

That means that the sugar crop, just like last year around this time, is now delayed with no foreseeable date for its start.and the gap between the cane farmers and the factory owners is widening once again.

But how did it come to this? To give you the full breakdown, our news team was at la Escuela Secundaria Technica Mexico in San Roman, Corozal yesterday, where it was standing room only. Daniel Ortiz reports:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Yesterday's general membership meeting saw one of the biggest crowds of farmers we've witnessed. The official register says that 1516 farmers showed up, but Association executives said that the final count was closer to 2,000.

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive, Orange Walk Branch Director
"You can see that today we had a very well attended meeting on which we had more farmers attending this meeting ng than I could say for the past 3 meetings."

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, who has been working closely with those trying to block the compromise agreement, also showed up at Sunday's meeting. She sat directly behind the Association's attorney, Chris Coye, and BSCFA's Finance Officer, Javier Keme.

The atmosphere was cordial if not friendly, but their views on the points of contention were like night and day.

Surprisingly, at the outset, the farmers didn't seem to want Matura-Shepherd to address the Assembly. They were vocal on their disagreement with her legal moves on behalf of Lucilo Teck, especially the application for injunction to block the signing of this compromise deal. That caused a delay for about 30 minutes while the farmers argued over whether if they would allow her to speak in the meeting or not.

Eventually, the crowd agreed to hear Matura-Shepherd, much to the apparent annoyance of Chairman Cansino.

The compromise among the farmers was that they would hear from their attorney, Chris Coye, who some had become disenchanted with for his inability to speak to them in Spanish. After that, Matura-Shepherd would be given an audience.

Coye was given the unenviable task of trying to convince the farmers that the compromise deal was the best they would get.

He made as comprehensive an attempt at this, amidst the jeers and discontent of his employers, the General Membership of the farmers.

Chris Coye - Attorney BSCFA
"The eyes of Belize are on us and most important decision concerning your future and the future of this industry is to be made, comparing the old agreement, the individual farmer agreement and the new agreement put before you for consideration today. The new agreement is clearly an improvement over both of them. Moreover, this new draft agreement provides certainty a clear path forward. If this agreement is approved today, it will likely be signed tomorrow and the crop will probably begin by Thursday if not sooner. If this draft agreement is not approved today, then there will be a lot of uncertainty in the industry."

Cane Farmer (translated)
"Caneros, I want to give my thanks to the lawyer for doing nothing for us."

That pretty much summed up the reception he got from the farmers after a 28 minute. What Coye said was translated by SCPC Chairman, Jose Novel, and it got an equally luke warm reception. They remained unconvinced by Coye's explanation, believing that they can negotiate with BSI for a better deal. Audrey Matura-Shepherd then took the mic and gave a 40 minute presentation in Spanish. She spent a noticeable portion of her presentation on the Sugar Industries Control Board, and her interpretation of the law that the SICB can declare season open without an agreement, which then forces BSI to accept the sugar cane deliveries. When she spoke, you could hear a pin drop; she had the undivided attention of the cane farmers. She received 6 rounds of spontaneous ovations.

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive
"We had a person in the person of Mrs. Matura-Shepherd that came and explain in the farmers' language what available legal terms are there on behalf of the farmers and I think that she was very open, that open the minds of many people - many farmers."

And that brought the meeting to its height, where Financial Officer, Javier Keme, brought the resolution that the BSCFA should join Lucilo Teck in his Mandamus law suit and compel the SICB to open the crop season without a signed agreement.

That received overwhelming support and was passed, so did another resolution that the farmers will NOT accept the compromise agreement the second time around. Those who opposed it in the first place got their desired outcome on Sunday in San Roman:

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive
"This is what we were awaiting for. We thought that there was a mixture of thoughts from the farmers, but at the very end I think that the farmers show from the early beginning of the meeting today that they have a better knowledge on what the agreement entails as is and that is why I think that the farmers took this decision."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"Indeed, this is not the result that I was expecting even though the decision was by the majority of the cane farmers. I simply agree and accept their decision."

So, now the issue goes to the Supreme Court where the farmers will seek to get the Judge's order to compel the SICB to declare the season opened. This show of democracy has kept the farmers together so far, despite the possible outcome that this impasse could cause the organization to splinter. The 60+ years of stability continues past this general meeting, but it also puts the crop in a state of uncertainty:

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"It's troubling me and not only me, many cane farmers I believe because definitely there is not a fix date when we could start the crop for this year. We are awaiting for a date. But by now I think that definitely we are not sure a date to start the crop."

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive
"I don't think that will be beneficial to anyone, to think about losing a crop because of the neglect or because of using not signing an agreement as a tool or as a weapon against the farmers. It came last crop that we sign an interim agreement with them because of the heated of the negotiations, but before that we didn't sign any paper and the past agreement was used as the guiding principles for crop to go on. That could still happen. We can use that as our guiding principle for the crop to go on and then we can negotiations. This is a marriage between the cane farmers and BSI, we need each other. So, in that sense, if we need each other, then we should work together for the benefit of the industry."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"I hope this doesn't go further because definitely it will harm the economy, not only for the cane farmers, I would say for the entire north of Belize."

Government has already issued a press release stating that it is not prepared to accede to the request that SICB declare season open. That statement says quote, "the law does not...allow the SICB to act unilaterally." End Quote.

Today in Cayo, the Prime Minister discussed the present difficulties:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Disappointed. I am not sure where we go from here. Government will have to try reach out to both sides and see if there is a basis for going forward. What I know is absolutely not on is this foolishness which was given additional currency by way of as I understand it, a resolution passed yesterday, this notion that somehow government can somehow can oblige BSI to accept cane in the absence of an agreement. That's not on. It's not on, from the point of view of government's assessment of the issue, government's position on the issue and I don't think it's on in terms of any kind of court order. Everybody knows you can't predict what courts will do, but my best sense is that courts don't act in vain. Courts don't have armies, courts don't have police forces and no court will make an order that is unenforceable for all sorts of practical reasons. So, that's off the table in my view and therefore we have to try to read institute dialogue which of course is going to be far easier said than done. What worries me, as I said trying to bring both sides back to the table, is going to be extremely difficult. BSI clearly will be reluctant because it means starting negotiations all over again. I notice yesterday the farmers never even pass a resolution saying well we want to deliver based on last year's agreement of an interim agreement. They seem to be saying we reject any agreement in the current form. They seem to be suggesting we go back to square one. That's going to be a very tall order, but I am worried about some rumblings I hear of these people talking about going it on their own, about hiving off from the BSCFA and doing their own thing."

Cane Country New Year’s Cheer?

Shortly after agreeing that the cane farmers will not sign the compromise agreement, one of the farmers tabled a motion that the executive of their association must make available 4 million dollars of Fair Trade money to distribute evenly among the 5,300 farmers in the north. Now, the farmers still haven't gotten a conclusive response if they ran afoul of Fair Trade regulations when they made a resolution to share out 2.5 million dollars of those funds during Christmas. They claimed that it was to assist with the hardships of the delay in the start of the grinding season, a sort of cane country Christmas Cheer.

But Christmas is done, and now the farmers want to make an even deeper dip into the Fair Trade Funds. At yesterday's meeting, the directors tried their very hardest to kill that motion and convince the farmers that it's against Fair Trade rules to share up that money. The funds have already been allotted to different upgrading projects within the sugar cane industry, all designed to modernize the industry and make it ready for 2017 when the preferential markets disappear. But, the majority demanded that their executive discard those programs and allow the farmers to divvy up the 4 million dollars.

Chairman Cansino, who was troubled by the last 2.5 million move, told us yesterday that he is completely disappointed that even after the dangers of being de-certified by Fair Trade, the farmers insisted that they wanted the money:

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive
"Farmers are going through a hardship right now financially because we don't have a crop right now. But I think that most of the funds that are available at this time, they have been approved for different projects and some are funds that have been approved from 2 years ago - projects that are not finalize as yet and the portion that was available, farmers approved on it before Christmas which has been delivered to the farmers. I cannot see there is more money to be distributed among the farmers."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"I am completely disappointed because this is not the way. If we manage to keep the cane farmers united to stay in one and now we will decide in something that will automatically break down the projects and the benefits for our own cane farmers and it's a pity that it's our own cane farmers who decided this. I am in deed not in agreement with this, but they are the ones who take the decision, so I know that the committee of management and the committee of finance will make every effort to make this available for Friday."

"This is 4 million dollars that could put the association or could disqualify the association forever."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"It's true, but I have to call an immediate meeting tomorrow with the 18 directors and also with the head of departments so as what we can do because in deed, I repeat, it's what I expected and I am completely disappointed."

"Do you think that this is a result of desperation on behalf of the farmers with the crop not starting?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"Maybe it could be desperation, but I think if they themselves say that they are well intelligent, that they know what they are doing, if by saying no, what not to sign or yes to what to sign - I think that this is not the way to end this thing. Definitely, this is not the way and I am disappointed."

Chairman Cansino said that he would call an emergency meeting to discuss this troubling resolution. He also said that he will get in contact with the officials of Fair Trade to get their input on yesterday's resolution.

If the Executive of the BSCFA concedes to this resolution, each farmer will end up with about $754 dollars after that 4 million dollars is divided equally.

Chairman Cansino Has Opponents After Compromise Deal

At yesterday's general meeting, Ezequiel Cansino, the Chairman of the Cane Farmers Association's Committee of Management came under fire from various farmers.

He's credited as one of the individuals who pushed forward for the farmers to sign the compromise agreement so that the crop season could begin without any further delay. While he was well-intentioned, he is being blamed by some as the man who helped to negotiate unfair terms for farmers.

Yesterday, a vote of no-confidence came out of a heated back and forth between the farmers. It did not gain any sort of traction with the rest of the assembly, but we wondered if Cansino would be able to survive such a move. Here's what he said when we asked him about it:

Alfredo Ortega - Member, BSCFA Executive
"Based on today's meeting and based on today's resolution he would need to prove himself to the farmers that he have the capacity and that he have the will to work based on the resolution passed by the farmers and if he don't react to that, well then, I think that things can happen against him, but if he do reacts based on the mandate of today that is being given by the farmers, then I think that he can continue on that post."

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"Well, I am not concern about that. Even though if my colleagues give me a vote of no confidence or a reshuffle comes at the end. I have to stay for my branch and I will keep fighting for my branch and as long as my branch keeps me as chairman of the branch of San Estevan."

As Cansino mentioned, he is also the chairman of the San Estevan Branch of the BSCFA - which is the largest branch in terms of cane production.

Channel 7

#499633 - 01/07/15 10:10 AM Re: Sugar season on its way [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

P.M. Barrow on Latest Turn of Events in Sugar Crisis

When we checked tonight, there was no word yet on any possible meeting between the key players in the industry. But late this evening, the B.S.C.F.A. has written to the Prime Minister to intervene to bring the parties together. On Monday, the PM said the continued delay in the sugar industry will have dire effects on the economic front. But importantly, the future of the B.S.C.F.A. is also under question because should it pay out four million dollars of fair-trade money to farmers, it will become financially unstable and will have to send home a number of persons who are employed under different projects except for three directly employed by the association. But here is what the prime minister said on Monday night.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I will have to reach out to the two sides to find out what true position each is taking before we can determine whether there is a basis and if so what that basis would be to try to work out some kind of new agreement between them. At this juncture, just after the rejection of what had already been worked out, it is impossible for me to say what the way forward can look like until I talk to both sides.”


“When do you expect to speak to either side of the two parties involved?”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“Possibly as early as tomorrow. We have to get through what is happening here today, but possibly as early as tomorrow.”


“There is a risk that we will see a late crop, more late than last year, which was all the way to the twentieth of January. What position does this put the economy, especially of the north?”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It is very, very warning, clearly it will have a fundamentally harmful effect on the economy. When you talk about the economy in a sense, that’s sort of abstract. When you start to talk about people, it will have a fundamental prejudicial effect on the farmers and their families, on the shop keepers, on the gas stations, on anybody that does any kind of commerce in the north because there will be no spending power in terms of the bulk of the farmers. It will have an effect on the banks who have mortgages out, who are expecting repayments. It will be a huge disaster for the north if we don’t succeed at all costs in getting a crop.”


“Yesterday the farmers passed another motion to use four million dollars for the fair-trade funds—this is an addition to the two point five that had already been dispersed. The directors and the financial committee are weary about it; they say that this might have the own association decertified permanently. What is your opinion on this?”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Well it is a matter for them, but it does strike me that it is perhaps a course of action that can have very far reaching effects in terms of exactly what you are saying decertification. Even more, immediate, I am not sure how much money will be left after they dissipate the four million dollars, but I am worried about their ability even to continue to run the association, even in terms of continuing to pay salaries, even in terms of continuing to pay bills. But presumably they know what they are doing.”

So this is where we are: at news time, there is no word yet on any movement to bring the parties around the negotiating table.

Channel 5

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