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#499729 - 01/09/15 09:48 AM Cane Farmers Association Splintering after 55 year  
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PM Can't Save It

Tonight, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association is at an existential crossroads. And that's because - as might have been expected - some cane farmers, particularly those with huge acreages of cane - want to break away from the long established cane farmers association and sign their own contracts with BSI. This could mean the splintering of an institution that has been paramount in the north for 55 years.

But tonight, between a fair trade fleecing and the cane compromise that crashed, there are credible reports which suggest that a move is afoot to form a new association, or associations to replace the venerable, but now beleaguered BSCFA.

Reports that this might happen have been swirling for two weeks now as the sugar standoff became more and more protracted: and today they were formalized when the Prime Minister held a press conference to say, he supports the larger cane groups if they want to go their own way:

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The question therefore arises what to do, where to go in the face of this cataclysm that is overtaking the industry? I had a meeting yesterday with ASR and they made their position crystal clear: They will not open their factory doors and start a crop and open their factory doors unless the agreement they reached is signed either by the Committee of Management of the BSCFA or a sufficient number of branches and individual farmers of the BSCFA, such as would guarantee a minimum deliver of 500k tonnes of cane."

"Things are now at a point where the Corozal Division of the BSCFA met to discuss splitting completely from Orange Walk and registering itself as a separate organization. Several individual branches from both orange walk and Corozal have talked about forming an alliance to go and jointly sign the agreement with BSI, start the crop and thereafter register themselves as new organizations."

"Those farmers and branches that are talking about getting together to sign the agreement with the BSI outside of the BSCFA…have a constitutional right to do so. That is both self-evident and clear as a matter of the 2010 Supreme Court order. And, government, if those farmers choose to exercise their undoubted right, will do whatever is necessary to vindicate that right."

"There has been talk of government calling an emergency house meeting on Monday to pass the amendments to the sugar act mandated by that 2010 Supreme Court order. That will not happen. And it will not happen for 2 reasons. If we have waited this long, we can afford to wait a little while longer. Also those that are determined to sign the agreement and start the crop do not need legislative changes to be able to do so."

"But there is no doubt that government in view of the frustration and prejudice that the impasse has caused is encouraging of these moves to have a crop. And there is also no doubt that once new cane farmer association are registered, government will at that time assuredly amend the act to comply with the court order and give express legal recognition to new associations."

"This breakup of the BSCFA which now appears to be imminent, is not a consummation that the government wished, is not a consummation that even now, the government wants to encourage. But it is also a position stated to make clear that since it appears that this will inevitably happen, government will at the point when it does materialize, if it materializes, perhaps the radicals will get some sense into their heads now and try to make up with those that are looking to break away and come together. But if it does materialize, when it materializes...government will effect the legal changes to enshrine into law what would have occurred as a matter of fact."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Is there any concern at this point that the decision by government to, so to speak, step back would result in some sort of mass action protest from certain sections of the cane farmers?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister
"What type of protest?"

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"Burning of tyres, blocking the road - that sort of thing."

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister
"Well, I haven't gotten that impression yet. I haven't gotten that message. I think it is clear that even within the cane farmers association, it is clear that what happened at the last general meeting was not what the majority of the farmers wanted. I am convince that would be a secret ballot done the results would be different. All of us throughout this entire country know the sensitivity of that industry and people are scared to have their cane fields burnt. They are not worried about tyres, they are worried about cane fields."

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Government is stepping very carefully, is moving very gingerly because at all cost we want to preserve the peace and while we speak out in support of those that want to go their own way and have a right to go their own way, government does not want to appear to be some sort of agent provocateur... we don't want to be responsible for any declaration of internal war among the farmers. The complete opposite is true and so we state our position, but we make the appeal. Those that still don't want to sign, don't sign, but allow those that want to sign to sign in peace."

And they man they would sign up with seems to be Arturo Hernandez Jr. He's a past chairman of the BSCFA Committee of Management and the present leader of Group A of the San Estevan Branch - which is the largest of the 18 cane producing branches in the north.

He's leading the charge to break away from the BSCFA and has reportedly attracted large grower groups to support him. Now, until we see an independent group actually sign with BSI, we'll wait and see how serious his effort it, but the Prime Minister did take it seriously today when he presented Hernandez's letter as proof of a strong and viable move towards a new association:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"The deputy handed me a letter addressed to me and signed by the past chairman of the committee of management and present leader of Group A of the San Esteven Branch which is responsible, he says, for the delivery of over 70k tons of sugar cane. I believe they are the largest single individual branch. And he says I am requesting your support in the amendment of the sugar cane act to allow an open system of cane delivery whereby other associations groups and individuals can deliver sugar cane to the mill. Presently the BSCFA is the only recognized bargaining body which can negotiate the delivery of sugar cane. However, a good number of directors and cane farmers are of the opinion that the BSCFA which as you may know has lost its credibility with fair-trade, is comprise of a small group of individuals who are manipulating the situation for their own benefit. I, he says, have met with a group of directors from other branches and together we have summed up over 500,000 tons of sugar cane that can be delivered right away so as to get this industry back on its feet."

Jules Vasquez
"Group A of San Estevan, the chairman is Hernandez?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister
"Arturo Hernandez."

Jules Vasquez
"Is he a relative of yours?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister
"He is my nephew."

Jules Vasquez
"Is that why he might be inclined to send a letter of support?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega, Deputy Prime Minister
"Actually, probably that did help. But I must tell you like all those other farmers, he is one that has huge commitments with the bank and his kids and that is why he is taking that position."

Reports say Hernandez is moving to form alliances with other branches including the fledgling Sugar Cane Producer's Association which is a group out of Corozal linked to St. Francis Xavier Credit Union. Again, we'll have to wait and see whether those rumored alliances actually take shape, but we know that movements are definitely afoot.

Today in Orange Walk, the Chairman of the BSCFA committee of management Ezequiel Cansino - who is from San Estevan - admitted that even he does not stand on very solid ground with the association he chairs:..

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"If San Estevan Branch, by tomorrow decides to sign out from BSCFA, I have to automatically resign from this association. On other hand I don't think that if San Estevan does the decision to sign as an association apart from BSCFA, it will be the complete break up of BSCFA. Because there are other branches that are willing to stay with BSCFA. So, BSCFA will start maybe from zero again. Right now, this talk about Xavier Credit Union, to my understanding, they are having meeting with BSI and if they decide to sign this agreement what will the rest of the cane farmers do. Obviously, we will have to go behind them. The same thing will happen for the rest of the branches that will stay on BSCFA - they have to follow the other branches who decide to start the crop."

"San Estevan is the first one maybe have taken the step to do this and yes I know that some branches have said the same thing, that they are willing to do the same. Up to now I can't say exactly how many of them, but yes we have branches that they are willing to join San Estevan. That is most likely government's blessing for the breakup of the association, but we ask our colleague not to break down, to keep on the association, so maybe we can show the country that maybe we can stand up again."

A very dire state of affairs for the BSCFA - and this evening, there are reports which say that as a last ditch effort to keep the splintering BSCFA intact, some inside the organization are considering signing the agreement with BSI. Again, this is just a report, but the situation is very fluid, so we are monitoring it closely at this hour.

Now, on the other side, as you'll see in an ad on this newscast, the opposition PUP is calling on government to use the power of the Sugar Industry Control Board to force BSI to open the factor and mill the cane. Today the Prime Minister repeated, with greater emphasis that he cannot do that:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"It is government's unalterable conclusion that it is impossible, impossible to compel BSI to accept cane deliveries and mill and market cane against its will. Any such attempt would not just be illegal, but would, as was made clear to me, cause the manufacturer to immediately shutter their factory permanently and leave Belize. Those individuals that campaigned against the agreement and that continue to assert against all reason that we can force BSI are thus grossly misleading the farmers. They have imperiled the industry and have exposed to hardship and possible penury the very farmers they say they are trying to help."

Jules Vasquez
"What do you expect to come out of the mandamus hearing?"

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"I expect it to fall flat. But I am telling you, since you talked about courage and since you accused us of a lack of courage, that, we make clear that we are not relying on what we believe will be the decision of the court and there are always litigation risks. We have said from the start and maintain our position that we are incapable if we are to act in accordance with the law forcing BSI to accept deliveries. But we have gone beyond that, we have said not only is it impossible to do that, it is also undesirable to do that."

And the legal document that took pre-eminence for the Prime Minister today was the Court order from May of 2010. That's the Wilfredo Magana constitutional case when Justice Oswell Legall upheld his submission that cane farmers cannot be compelled to be a part of the BSCFA and pay it a cess because it limits their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association. Justice Legall ordered that the law has to be changed to reflect that but in a move to protect the BSCFA Government never moved on it. So as it stands, the sugar act has been ruled unconstitutional. Today the PM told Audrey Matura Shepherd, good luck taking that to court:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"How the lawyers representing the radicals will move the court for an order under an act that is unconstitutional, defeats me. And one of the reason the act was found unconstitutional is precisely because it only recognized the BSCFA as the sole representative of cane farmers. The amendments mandated by the court include the removal of the BSCFA as sole grower representative and substituting, therefore, any and all organizations, such as the United Cane Farmers Association, which brought the challenge to the act in the first place, and the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association. In these circumstances it seems to me to be foolishness on top of foolishness, nonsense placed upon stilts for these people to argue that will get the court to aid their illegal bid to pressure the SICB. The question might fairly be asked, can an entity declared unconstitutional under the act, even have standing to move the court?"

Ortega Pushes, Barrow Bristles

At the top of the newscast, we told you all about the splintering within the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, which could lead to the break up of this body which has served the north for 5 decades. A lot of misgivings about the current crossroads the Sugar Industry finds itself at is based on the role of the Sugar Industry Control Board. Can they or can't they order the commencement of the cane season? Today in Orange Walk, Fred Ortega insisted that they must:..

Alfredo Ortega - Director, BSCFA Orange Walk Branch
"All what we need to do and in this case the sugar industry act was made to guide the sugar industry as a whole. So, I don't see now that things that are within the act that can give that opportunity or that balance where one group can find a way out when they are cornered in certain position. Now he will come out and say that that is not good, that that doesn't reflect anything for him. I think that is not a good response for the law abiding citizens."

And so as the BSCFA faces an existential crisis, can government do anything legislatively to save it? Today the Prime Minister bristled at the suggestion:..

Jules Vasquez
"However a critic might say that your government has shown in the past that it is willing to legislate or change the constitution to change the landscape of certain industries to make it...."

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"We are not in a position now to change the constitution in any event. We don't have the requisite majority in the House. Whether we want to or not, we don't have the requisite majority. So please don't pursue what in my mind is an idle line of inquiry."

But tonight, there's no idleness in the sugar industry - there are moves to splinter the decades old BSCFA and by tomorrow we should have a clearer picture in what direction things are going.

Channel 7

NTUCB Press Release on Continuing BSCFA Solidarity

The National Trade Union Congress of Belize; makes an impassioned plea to the members of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, to remain united. There is no way you can come through on the most beneficial end of this matter; if you now fall prey to the plot that has been skillfully weaved and orchestrated to break you up.

Whilst this Congress is being accused of leading this Association blindly, the NTUCB absolutely refuses to buckle under the name-calling. The NTUCB affirms that the measures it has undertaken to lend continued support to the BSCFA, is to ensure the longevity of the organization and to secure the BEST for the members of the BSCFA.

The NTUCB does not intend to see the BSCFA busted; with its members relegated to cane cutters rather than cane farmers.

This Congress begs the cane farmers to stand firm and stand strong as the NTUCB rallies with you to see the debacle through to the best possible outcome.

United we stand … Divided we will all fall!!!

#499736 - 01/09/15 10:10 AM Re: Cane Farmers Association Splintering after 55 year [Re: Marty]  
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Sugar Cane Industry on Hari Kari Watch

Fair-trade consultant Julia Clark wrote a letter to B.S.C.F.A. Chairman Ezequiel Cansino. She said “While I understand that these are difficult times, I am concerned that in changing the premium plan approved at the Ordinary General Assembly the Association may have entered into a major non-compliance. Moreover I do not see how the Association can remain compliant with fair-trade standards with no funds to pay for staff to guide and support farmers and no funds for projects to provide an incentive to farmers to remain compliant with fair-trade Standards… I am therefore concerned that this decision effectively signals the departure of B.S.C.F.A. from the fair-trade movement and all the benefits that have been received in the past and can be received in the future.”

#499767 - 01/10/15 09:56 AM Re: Cane Farmers Association Splintering after 55 year [Re: Marty]  
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Court OK’s Mandamus Hearing, But Not Until February

Can the Sugar Industry Control Board order BSI to open the factory and start milling cane? Audrey Matura Shepherd thinks it can - and that, in the present circumstances it must.

Government and its Chairman Gabriel Martinez say the opposite: they say the SICB can only declare the season open after it consults with both sides and gets agreement on a date for the start of the crop.

So today, veteran cane farmer Lucilo Teck and executives of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association went to ask the court to intervene and command the SICB to do what they feel is its duty: declare the season open and make it so. They're asking for a writ of mandamus, a court order which would compel the SICB to act.

But, first, they must have a hearing to ask the court for permission to apply for mandamus.

That happened today before Justice Shona Griffith, with a gaggle of attorneys in tow: Audrey Matura-Shepherd and Anthony Sylvestre as the attorneys for Lucilo Teck; Michael Young for BSI/ASR; Rodwell Williams for SICB, Eamon Courtenay for the BSCFA; and Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawk for the Government of Belize.

After much back and forth, Justice Griffith granted leave for the claimants to bring the Mandamus application. The only problem is that it cannot be heard until February 23rd - and by then, surely, half the cane season will have been lost.

So it's a victory, but one that may whose practical application is in question. Seven News was outside of court when the attorneys exited, and we got reaction from all sides:

Rodwell Williams, attorney
"The judge decided that she would nevertheless grant the permission to bring what we considered to be an irretrievable flawed fix date claim and judge can do that."

Michael Young - Attorney, BSI
"Well it's not that the papers were inappropriately filed. Our position is that the wrong papers were filed and I think that there was not much of a disagreement on their part and the court recognized that the papers in the way that they were prepared and filed were not correct. Our position was that you need to formulate your case properly and file it before the court can even have jurisdiction to entertain what you are seeking to have. The court looked `at the intent and substance of the documents that were filed and took the position that indeed there was an application before the court for permission to file judicial review."

Daniel Ortiz
"You reject the conclusion that the judge bailed out te claimants today?"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, attorney for Lucilo Teck
"No. You see in law there are discretions that the courts are given. In the old days under strict common law process there were only one way that you can do things and one error or anything like that would therefore mean that you can't move ahead. But the law change over centuries. It has evolved and so a lot of this question is given to a judge under the inherent jurisdiction. The 2005 civil procedure rule was intended to ease any blow, so that claimants like my claimant who are people suffering hardship - my claimant is a single farmer who has a lot to lose is not then rejected by the court by a technicality and you notice we were citing different rules because there are provisions to cushion any technical mishap."

The court has attempted to expedite the hearing of this case, but the earliest date that it will be argued is on February 23. That's more than 6 weeks away; and that's still not including the time it will take for the judge to deliberate and return a decision...,meaning that it would be some time before the SICB would be compelled to act if they are successful.

Cansino: Caneros Could Cave

And so, in real time, while this case prolongs, farmers are starting to get desperate. Cane is in the ground, there is no foreseeable start for the crop, and the farmers have commitments to meet.

Today, we spoke with Chairman of the Committee of Management, of the BSCFA, Ezequiel Cansino, and Chairman of the Orange Walk Branch, Alfredo Ortega. They told us that the farmers are on the verge of caving and signing with BSI to start delivering their cane:

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"We have been saying that we already having losses on this delay and if we will wait 6 weeks more, I think definitely cane farmers will actually from the list of the cane farmers."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"In terms of the delivery of cane, you are the head of the San Estevan Branch, responsible for 150,000 tons of cane. Are you a part of this alliance which was spoken of yesterday, this alliance of people are ready and prepare to deliver cane immediately to the field?"

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"I have said long before that, that San Estevan is already ready and they are asking for the start of the crop. If there are any other branches that are willing to start the crop, I think that we will have no problem to sign to start the crop as soon as possible."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"How difficult is that position that you are put in? As you are the head of the San Estevan Branch, but you are also the chairman of the committee of management of the BSCFA which has been mandated by farmers to do something completely different from what you as head of the San Estevan Branch want to do."

Ezequiel Cansino
"It's very difficult of me. At least I will try the last to keep the BSCFA as united as possible."

Mike Rudon, Ch5
"And that is difficult at this point?"

Ezequiel Cansino
"Well it's very difficult for me."

"Do you see the association breaking up? It almost seem inevitable."

Ezequiel Cansino
"If we are supposed to wait the 6 weeks more, I think that it's definitely that we will break up. But if BCSFA act as quick as possible, maybe we might have a possibility to reunite and get stronger. The consensus of the cane farmer to stay together and sign the agreement as soon as possible."

Alfredo Ortega - Director, BSCFA Orange Walk Branch
"I receive may calls from the farmers from during after the press conference of the Prime Minister and during like late last night. The farmers are saying where are we now? Because if the Prime Minister of the country is prepared to protect us, if the Prime Minister of the country is not obeying the law, where are we? And many of them are saying well you know what, just sign and let us move for a crop and that is a situation that corners the farmer that if they would move into that situation to sigh, they will be signing something that they really understand that will be to their detriment."

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, attorney for Lucilo Teck
"I have no control about the maneuvering of any government or any entity who want to crush the farmers. Yesterdays' press conference was a clear indication that the lines were drawn, that there are 3 people or 3 entities against the cane farmers and the common denominator of those 3 entities is clearly the government of Belize. The Government of Belize is part owner of BSI, so when they sided BSI, they are siding with themselves. The Government of Belize is the one that appoints the Sugar Industry Control Board, so when they side and refuse to have the Sugar Industry Control Board carry out the law, again, it's the government of Belize that is behind that. And then the Government of Belize in its own standing yesterday, to the highest office that we can find in governance in any government administration made it clear, that they drew the line and said they will not go with the cane farmers. As a matter of fact, proudly announce that they have met with ASR and we've had said about meeting with the cane farmers. So, clearly that's an indication that lines have been drawn and that the cane farmers now, can expect anything against them to divide them, anything against them to discourage them."

And on that other big challenge facing the association, the 18 directors have voted on whether or not they will disburse the 4 million dollars of the Fairtrade funds. 14 said yes, and 4 said that the management shouldn't.

That's the majority, and so, the association's hands are tied; the General Assembly called for it, and now 14 directors want to comply. So the cheques for about 750 dollars each will be cut for each of the 5,300 or so farmers. In meantime, while that is being processed, the directors are trying to change the minds of their branch members, which seems more or less made up on this issue:

Alfredo Ortega - Director, BSCFA Orange Walk Branch
"Yesterday there are many farmers agitating that they want that we disburse to them. Nevertheless we are explaining to them that it will create problems for them. Personally I didn't sign the paper because I am not in agreement for that to happen because it will hurt the association, but in the further end it will hurt the farmers because this is leading to a decertification and a decertification from Fair Trade is not only that we will not be receiving any more premiums, the situation is that the movement of the market, the movement of the consumers out there, they are looking forward to products that are produce with less use of agrochemicals and that child labor is not involve and that protection to the labor force is being done, so many things are there that need to be in compliance with and those are things that we need the farmers to understand and we are trying to see how best they can understand the implication of all of this. But nevertheless there is a potential political intervention to farmers that the 4 million dollars be disperse to them."

"Vote was taken and the majority voted in favor that that money be disperse. It will be use, it will be disperse to the farmers. Four of us didn't sign the paper, but the majority rules, so we have 18 directors, so 14 of them has sign the paper and it will go through."

A Survey For Sour Times In Sugarland

And, before we leave tonight, an update on the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. As we told you, the branch directors met this evening in an emergency session. They wanted a vote on whether they should go back to their members for approval to go ahead and sign the agreement because the cane farmers association is breaking up. 15 Directors attended and they decided that instead of calling another special meeting - they will instead ask the directors to take a survey of their members to find out if they want to go ahead and sign the agreement. By next week, we'll know how that is going. In the meantime, the move for some to defect form the Association is still ongoing.

Channel 7

#499862 - 01/13/15 09:53 AM Re: Cane Farmers Association Splintering after 55 year [Re: Marty]  
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Cane Farmers Get Ready To Sign Compromise Agreement; Will BSCFA Survive?

Tonight, the cane crisis continues, but things are beginning to take shape - and all sides are moving closer to signing an agreement. The Cane Farmers Association - fighting for its very survival - is right in the mix. But, tonight, there are credible shows of alternate grower groups, possibly large enough to supply the BSI mill without the cane farmers association.

Still, it's too early to say definitively which model will emerge - but today at a PUP press conference, one of the champions of the Cane Farmers Association, the PUP's representative for Orange Walk South, Jose Mai told the media that the branches have met and are willing to sign with BSI:..

Hon. Jose Mai, OW South
"Jules, as we speak today there are a number of meetings held in the different branches. I attended one of them yesterday. Actually, the agenda was one thing, to get the farmers to sign, to commit that they will accept that they were willing to begin the crop, given the agreements of BSI. They are signing with a heavy heart which is the last thing we have to do. There is no other alternative and we need the crop to start. As a matter of fact, I almost sign yesterday, but after doing some reflection I said no, I will sign but after I've made statement very clear. I am unhappy and I shared this feeling for many farmers and we have to sign, it is with a heavy heart that we have to sign. I think the important thing right now is to start the crop and to allow the farmers to deliver their cane. It's a 1.4 million tonnes of cane out there and I don't see how it can be delivered given the short time as time was wasted."

And a new growers group is wasting no time in trying to recruit members. The Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association has joined up with the United Cane Farmers Association say they are opening their headquarters in Corozal Town tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. A press release says the association is fully certified and they are calling cane farmers to come to their office and join the association.

Added to this there are reports of large farmers going independently to the Sugar Industry Control Board indicating their intention to sign with BSI.

There are reports that with these independent movements, added to BSI's cane - they could make up more than the minimum of five hundred thousand tonnes of cane to justify the opening of the mill.

Still today, Mai told the media that he does not believe the BSCFA can be so easily put to one side:..

Hon. Jose Mai, OW South
"I do not believe that the BSCFA will splinter, for a number of reasons; one, the main reason being that it is the only existing organization that has the infrastructure in place for efficient harvesting and delivery. The easiest thing to do is to form an association. Get it up and running efficiently is the most challenging to do. So, in order to avoid the members from going over to associations that would be defunct anyway, the farmers, I believe in their own wisdom has decided to sign the agreement and to stay with the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, of course under force measure."

Party Leaders Disagree On How to Deal With ASR

And so the leaders of the nation's two mass parties have very different views on ASR/BSI. Now, that's not surprising - they disagree on just about everything. In fact, last year the only thing they seemed to agree on was the Christmas Cheer program!

But, in this case it's notable, because foreign direct investment is the sacred cow of developing countries. Fonseca says he respects that, but only to a certain point - while Barrow had a very different take. We juxtapose these two views tonight:..

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"These are people who can afford to absorb the loss and walk away from Belize and I am telling you it is quite clear to me that they would do precisely that, if any effort were to be made to compel them."

Hon. Francis Fonseca, Leader of The Opposition
"If they say well they will shutter their doors and go, then let them go, let them go."

And so that's it for sugar tonight - with the situation in the north still evolving, and no agreements signed with ASR yet, we'll have to wait and see what takes shape tomorrow.

Channel 7

Nationalization of BSI Is Still An Option For The P.U.P

With the nationalization of the Belize Electricity Limited and Belize Telemedia Limited by the Barrow Administration, there are those who believe that Governments next move should be to nationalize BSI/ASR in order to save the Sugar Industry. Now, the Prime Minister has stated that it’s easier said than done since they are not in a position to change the constitution and GOB does not have the requisite majority in the house. But for the PUP the nationalization of the factory is not something that should be put to rest just yet.

Honorable Francis Fonseca- Leader of the Opposition

“We hope that that is not an option that has to be explored but we can’t take it off the table. The cane farmers are not, let’s be clear because some people seem to be a little confused, cane farmers are not employees of BSI/ASR, they don’t work for BSI/ASR they are partners with them in the sugar industry and I think that is fundamental difference in understanding between us in the People’s United Party and the present government under Mr. Barrow, he thinks that these are employees of BSI/ASR who are behaving bad and need to be scolded and they should get inline and sign the agreement these are partners in the industry, these people are on equal footing with anybody from ASR/BSI and they must be protected.”

The subject of foreign investment was also of much discussion today during the PUP press conference and while the party clearly stated that they welcome investors they also mentioned that it must be done under certain rules and regulations.

Honorable Francis Fonseca- Leader of the Opposition

“We know well Belize needs foreign direct investment, we welcome investors that is the long history of the People’s United Party we welcome investment into Belize but I say today in no certain terms very loudly and very clearly if ASR/BSI, if they cannot value and respect our cane farmers then let them go, let them go. Our message today as the People’s United Party, as leaders of this party and I speak for all our leaders because we discuss this matter in our last meeting on Friday, our national executive meeting of standard bearers and our position is a strong united position, we stand 100% behind the cane farmers of this country and we condemn in no uncertain terms the actions of the Prime Minister of Belize and his government to undermine the national interest, to undermine our cane farmers and in so doing to undermine the very future of the cane industry.”


#499915 - 01/14/15 10:02 AM Re: Cane Farmers Association Splintering after 55 year [Re: Marty]  
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Sugar Saga Winding Down, BSCFA Still Standing, Just Barely

Tonight, after a prolonged saga of discord, uncertainty and delays, the Sugar Industry is inching closer to a start for the 2014-2015 grinding season, but it is not without some measure of deterioration.

The result of a month and a half of disagreement is that the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association has been broken into almost 2 equal parts. Before this crisis, the total membership of the association was approximately 5,500 strong. Now, after the latest survey the membership has decreased to approximately 3,088 farmers.

As we told you last night, the 18 branch chairmen of the association went back to their branch members during the weekend to take a survey on whether or not their committee of management should accept the cane deal with the factory owners and sign it.

The result of that survey is that 56% of the association's total membership say that they want the BSCFA to accept. These 3 thousand farmers own just over 856 thousand tonnes of the 1.477 million currently sitting in the field, waiting to be harvested. The Chairman of the Association's Committee of Management, Ezequiel Cansino, told the media this morning that 18 branch chairmen met today to discuss the results, and what it could mean for the future of the association:

Ezequiel Cansino - Chairman, COM of BSCFA
"We had a meeting today with 18 directors. We just finished this meeting and the purpose of the meeting was for all the directors to give their results of their branch's meeting that they had this weekend and the signing that they got from the cane farmers, who were willing to sign to start the crop and to keep under the BSCFA umbrella. Each director reported their results and in total we have 58% what is the production of 1.457 million tonnes. The exact numbers of cane farmers, still we have to tabulate. But, this more or less the average of the tonnage that we have, that signed to keep under BSCFA umbrella."

So, if you're still following, it means that 44% of the membership of the BSCFA has splintered off to form their own associations and reaping groups.

Before Saturday, there were 18 Branches which made up the association, but tonight only 15 remain unified. 1 branch, Patchakan, has exited the association completely. Some of its members will join the newly formed Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association, Chaired by Elvis Canul. The rest, which owns approximately 91 thousand tonnes of cane, will form their own association and will sign with BSI separately.

Cansino sits as the Chairman of the San Estevan Branch, one of the largest under the BSCFA. His branch will also splinter because several members, who own 100 thousand tonnes of sugar cane, will go off on their own and sign with BSI/ASR separately. The rest, responsible for 52 thousand tonnes of cane, will remain under the BSCFA umbrella.

Of the 15 branches who will remain united under BSCFA, two of them, namely Orange Walk and San Pablo, will sign under duress or protest

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