CANE FARMERS DEMONSTRATE
Some two hundred cane farmers demonstrated Wednesday in Corozal against the current price of sugar cane. Dorrespondent Manuela Ayuso spoke with cane farmer Nemencio Acosta.
Nemencio Acosta - Farmer have decided to demonstrate today because their first payment will only be one dollar twenty-seven cents. Last week Friday we had a picketing as a result of that picketing we were informed in the afternoon that one million dollars had been assigned from the sugar price stabilization fund that comes out to about eighty-seven cents for tonne more, but why farmers are upset because at the beginning of the crop they were promised by the chairman of the Cane Farmers Association that the price was adjusted up to forty dollars and that it we going to be subsidized so therefore the first payment was thirty-four dollars now the second payment suppose to be ten percent of the estimated price which suppose to be four dollars and farmers have made all their commitments because they had in mind that they would receive the four dollars as their second payment and unfortunate when the payment was released it was only one dollar twenty-seven cents. This morning!
we are going to have a demonstration from the Cane Farmers Association going to the Sugar Board office where the Minister of Sugar Industry has his office and we are going to negotiate to see if we can get at least two million dollars from the Stabilization Fund. We understand that that fund suppose to have around seven million dollars. That fund was created especially for this type of crisis and farmers they need the four dollars to so that they can clean their fields and fertilize them. If they cannot get this then next year the production of sugar cane is going to be short.
Manuela Ayuso also spoke with the Executive Secretary of the Sugar Industry Control Board, Albino Vargas.
Albino Vargas - At the November 30 meeting in Belmopan the Prime Minister realising and everyone realising that we are basing ourselves on assumption the Prime Minister committed the government of Belize to defraying the differential by one million dollars. The Prime Minister is keeping that promise but some how the cane farmers are saying that the Prime Minister committed himself to forty dollars per tonne. We need to understand that the forty dollars we were talking about was an adjustment in the first estimate based on these assumptions. However unfortunately the marketing conditions did not provide for these assumptions to be realized. What I believe is that there are a lot of misinformation a lot of deliberate misinformation by the cane farmers. Politics has also raid its head into this situation. The government of Belize is standing by its promise to defray the differential by one million dollars and we will keep that promise.
Vargas also commented on the farmers request that 2 million dollars be used from the Sugar Stabilization Fund.
Albino Vargas - The Sugar Price Stabilization Fund has some 2.3 million dollars in that fund. This fund was established actually for the reason the name implies for the stabilization of the prices in our economic situation. We do not have the latest from Belmopan but what I think and I have been assured that this million dollars that the government has been able to subsidize with or is going to assist the industry with will come from the Sugar Price Stabilization Fund. At this point in time, it would be a bit frugal at looking at the possibility to divert all the money. We cannot make projections at what the situation next year will be and we can look at the possibility of the same situation arising and we need to keep something in that Sugar Price Stabilization Fund.
Nemencio Acosta spoke on behalf of the cane farmers and said that if their request is not honoured they plan to stage another demonstration, this time in Belmopan.
Nemencio Acosta - We have to make our voice heard because we are not asking for national income we are asking for a reserve that belongs to the industry and the farmers are entitled to it. I do not see why the Minister of Finance or whosoever is in charge of that money cannot allocate that money to the farmers at this time.
The second payment to cane farmers is scheduled to be made Thursday. The estimated average price is one dollar 27 cents for farmers in Corozal and two dollars 58 cents for those in Orange Walk. Farmers in Orange Walk will get more for second payment because they received less in first payment.