The Santander Group celebrated a milestone today with the exportation of its first shipment of raw sugar.  A quota of fourteen thousand tons of unrefined grain is being trucked to the port at Big Creek.  From there the containers are destined to the European market in the days ahead.  The achievement has been a few years in the making and the company was able to overcome several unforeseen obstacles prior to arriving at this point.  With its maiden consignment headed to Spain and Holland, the Santander Group is also planning on penetrating other key markets, including the United States and the Caribbean.  News Five spoke by phone with country representative Beverly Burke who says that despite a few minor hiccups, production and delivery are coming along fairly well.

On the Phone: Beverly Burke, Santander Representative, Belize

“Yes, indeed it is a great day for us here at Santander.  The milestone that we’ve been inching towards is finally here.  We are in the process of exporting the first shipment of sugar produced by the Santander Group and that shipment is going to see about fourteen thousand tons of sugar and this is raw sugar of course, and we are shipping out to Spain and Holland as the destination.”

Beverly Burke

Isani Cayetano

“Is the European market the only market for Santander sugar at this point or are you guys working on penetrating other markets, including the United States?”

On the Phone: Beverly Burke

“Oh, most certainly!  When we were looking at the different discussions as to where the sugar would go initially we were in conversation, or the broker, was also looking at the U.S., as well as the Caribbean markets and clearly the contract came through with the European market.  So that’s the destination at this point; however, as we increase production for next year the possibility of going into any of the other markets remain extremely high and it all comes down to what the numbers are.  So that is what helps us to determine the market that will see the Santander sugar.”

Isani Cayetano

“Speaking of numbers, is there a specific target that you’re trying to accomplish during this season?”

On the Phone: Beverly Burke

“Yes, based on the fields that we had put in and the capacity of the factory for the first year, we are almost at our target.  Given some glitches during the production year, we are just a little below what we had projected, but all in all [it’s] a very successful year.  So the exportation of fourteen thousand tons is very close to what we had anticipated in doing this year.  Next year of course we’re going to see an increase from that fourteen thousand tons.  As I said, what that will do for us then is also allow us to look at other markets too.”

No Plans for a Refinery Just Yet

Beverly Burke

While projections are being made for increased production in subsequent crops, there are no plans as yet for the construction of a refinery.  As it stands, Santander is wholesaling unprocessed sugar at a different cost than it would refined grain, with no preferential prices.  According to Burke, they have not been able to look at market shares because the production year is still open. 

On the Phone: Beverly Burke, Santander Representative, Belize

“Going forward, year two, year three, we are not really looking at a refinery.  A refinery needs to make financial sense and hence we would have to look at probably quadrupling the sugar production for a refinery, justify the investment of a refinery.  Whereas the layout, our overall plan can actually accommodate a refinery, it is not in the first three to five years of the actual project.  It might come later if it makes financial sense at that time.”

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of dollars and cents, I am assuming here that you’re selling the raw sugar at a lower cost than if it were refined, correct?”

On the Phone: Beverly Burke

“Yes, of course.  The raw sugar still needs to go through its, the additional processing for it to become table sugar.  So yes, there are other stages.  I don’t know if I would classify it as being sold at a cheaper rate but based on what the world market figures dictate, we are right on par with that.  So there are different calculations based on raw versus finished product.  So we are right on par with what the world market is dictating that that price should be.  So far as market share, we have not looked at that comparison as yet simply because our production year is not over.  That comparison can only come at that point but what we are looking at is what the capabilities of our facilities are and based on the targets that we have set for ourselves that is really our main focus.  It’s not any competition whatsoever with what the north is doing but for us it’s all about achieving the standards, achieving the production levels that we have set based on investments that we have made and based on the overall capabilities of our facilities.  So far as that is concerned we’re going into the market without all the preferential treatment and stuff that existed way back in the days that the north was able to enjoy.  For us it’s totally different, this is a straightforward investment going into what I will term a neutral market and that’s at the level which we’re competing.”

Channel 5