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#320717 - 01/26/09 09:51 PM Trouble brewing in sugar industry  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
They have not been in the news for quite some time, but tonight the cane farmers, the Belize Cane Farmers’ Association, the Belize Sugar Industries, and the Sugar Industry Control Board are back in the headlines.

Tonight all indications are that trouble is brewing in the sugar industry and that it could lead to a general strike by the cane farmers.

The trouble has to do with the Core Sampler that was implemented on a trial basis by B.S.I. at the beginning of the 2008/2009 crop season. Presently cane samples are taken from 1,300 cane farmers who volunteered for the trial. Those cane farmers, according to B.S.I., would be paid based on cane quality.

This means that the payment for these 1,300 cane farmers would either see an increase or decrease in payment per ton of cane based on the test results.

But at the last Annual Cane Farmers’ General Meeting held in December 2008 at the Escuela Secundaria Técnica Mexico, cane farmers voted for B.S.I. to suspend the use of the Core Sampler.

CTV-3 News understands that yesterday the cane farmers’ resolution was rejected by the Sugar Industry Control Board. This afternoon we spoke to Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Cane Farmers’ Association, Carlos Magaña, regarding the rejection of the cane farmers’ resolution.

Magaña says that there are several reasons behind the cane farmers’ resolution to suspend the use of the Core Sampler.

We will follow this story and provide you with more information as it unfolds.

#320953 - 01/27/09 08:47 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Cane Farmers may go on strike tonight

It is expected that cane farmers will go on strike tonight at ten when Belize Sugar Industries Limited starts receiving sugar cane. The strike according to reports is due to the rejection of the cane farmers’ resolution to discontinue the use of the Core Sampler passed at the Annual General Meeting in December 2008.

The resolution was rejected by the Sugar Industry Control Board during a meeting held on January 15th. And that decision as we understand has cane farmers up in arms since they feel as if their voices are not being taken into consideration.

With an impending strike looming, this afternoon B.S.I. issued a press release warning cane farmers what a strike would do to the sugar industry.

In the release, B.S.I. reminds all sugar industry stakeholders that any action aimed at undermining the viability of the crop will impact the entire industry negatively, especially during this challenging period that it is facing.

B.S.I. further states that at a meeting of stakeholders held on January 15th that was convened by Prime Minister Honorable Dean Barrow, and that included government officials and the leadership of the industry including the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association it was agreed that payment by quality would continue while a further public education exercise was undertaken.

According to B.S.I., in accordance with commitments made at that meeting, key stakeholders met last week to assess the performance of the system after 7 weeks of crop. The assessment was made to further discuss the educational efforts aimed at communicating the merits and performance of the system.

The release concludes by stating that in view of the collective decision taken less than two weeks ago, B.S.I. will maintain the Tower Hill Factory open for the receiving and processing of sugar cane.

And while B.S.I. has indicated through its press release that it will be open for the receiving of sugar cane, we will have to wait and see if any cane farmer will deliver their sugar cane tonight.

CTV-3 News will follow this story and bring you more details in tomorrow’s newscast.

#320983 - 01/28/09 08:39 AM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Strike at Tower Hill

There is trouble in the north at the Tower Hill Sugar Factory as the Belize Cane Farmers Association has called for a general strike. The decision came this evening after a 1-day strike which shut down the Tower Hill Factory. At 10:00 a.m. today farmers from the Corozal District refused to take their cane into the factory to process.
The issue is a new piece of equipment called a core sampler which tests the quality of cane before it goes into the factory for grinding. The lower the quality, the lower the volume of cane that is usable, the less money the farmer takes home. And after a few weeks with the sampler – many farmers realized that their end of season payout would be significantly diminished. By significant we mean that some farmers could end up getting as much as $6 per tonne less than what they would have under the old regime. A small truck carries about 12 tonnes – and for an optimum load, a farmer could earn about $43 per tonne.

But some of them are down to $36 per and now the majority position is that the farmers want the core sampler taken out of the process completely. There has been discussion that the location of the sampler puts the farmers at a disadvantage and that moving it could be a solution. But not for this season – and now the association says it is going on an indefinite general strike, meaning no delivery of sugar cane to the miller until the matter has been resolved.

It’s a critical industry at the height of the harvest and so the development is no small matter. And with so many livelihoods in the balance, it’s also volatile, which is why up to this evening the riot squad was stationed on the compound at the BSI.

Channel 7 News

#321222 - 01/29/09 09:00 AM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
[Linked Image] Sugar Strike Cripples Tower Hill

Tonight, the strike by cane farmers at the Tower Hill sugar factory in Orange Walk remains in effect. As we first reported last night, cane farmers stopped delivering cane to the factory in protest of a machine called a core sampler – which tests the quality of the cane that’s coming in. And it also introduces a new pricing formula based on the quality of the cane, not just how much it weighs. So some are making more and some are making less and now all of them are on strike. It couldn’t have come at a worse time because this is the height of production at the factory. 7NEWS went to Tower Hill and Keith Swift reports.

Keith Swift Reporting,
Today the chimneys at the Tower Hill Factory belched plumes of smoke in the Sky above Orange Walk. And while the factory seems to be up and running, things are far from normal here at Tower Hill. Sugar cane farmers are on strike and most of them have stopped delivering cane to the factory. That has crippled production.”

Eloil Navarro, Cane Farmer
“We are not delivering cane. The general membership decided at a general meeting that by right of them, that they are not going to start to deliver cane until this can be negotiated and straightened out.”

And by this - there are referring to this new piece of equipment called the core sampler. It is quite simply - supposed to take a sample from each load of cane brought to the factory to check for quality – but cane farmers say it’s been cutting them short.

Carlos Pott, Cane Farmer
“We don’t want that core sampler now because it depends on our quality but now cane farmers are getting about $20 to $21 more and we don’t want that because some are getting $28 and some are getting $40 for the quality. That is why we don’t want it because we want a flat price.”

Keith Swift,
So you’re getting less?

Carlos Pott,
“Yes we are getting less money with that core sampler.”

Thomas Cawich, Cane Farmer
“We want the core sampler to go.”

Eloil Navarro,
“The example is that a farmer delivers his cane clean, mature cane, and the results came to a low sucrose content and other trips loaded with mechanical loading, shows a better sucrose.”

Carlos Pott,
“They say that if we sell quality cane it is a better price but now it is different because that is not business now and growing cane is a big big work for the cane farmers.”

Solomon Pott, Cane Farmer
“We are not agreeing with the system that we have, the core sampler. First of all because they are not working as we want to work because we have different kind of payment. So we want to ask BSI or anyone who is in charge for the core sampler to be suspended.”

But Belize Sugar Industries’ Finance Director Belizario Carballo says cane farmers shouldn’t hold their breaths.

Belizario Carballo, Finance Director – Belize Sugar Industries
“Farmers say it is the system BSI is implementing or BSI wants it because it is a BSI system. It is not like that. The system will be beneficial to BSI but it will also be beneficial to the farmers because the endgame is for us to have more sugar and better quality sugar.”

BSI doesn’t actually own or run the core sampler but Carballo says shrinking markets and profits demand its use.

Belizario Carballo, Director of Finance
“We have been tasked with preparing the industry to be more competitive and one of the biggest challenges we face is really the quality of cane; the quality of the raw material coming in. In every serious industry around the world that is efficient in the production of sugar, there is a system of payment based on quality. It is not new for Belize. Belize I think is one of the only remaining countries that is still paying based on weight and that was a clear part of the strategy going forward, to move to a system of payment based on quality. It is a system that is intended to reward those who deliver better quality cane.

The new system is one that we will pay farmers based on their individual quality of cane they deliver and based on the quality of their cane as compared to the quality of cane that other farmers are delivering in any particular week. So it is a system of relative quality. And so in that system, by its very nature, there will be those who will be getting paid more than the average and there will be those who are getting paid below the average.”

Carballo says the strike shut down operations yesterday and today enough trucks dropped off cane to start up the mill.

Belizario Carballo,
“On a day like this where it is sunny and nice and we are supposed to be doing well in terms of production, we are not producing and so it is affecting. On most days we would accept about 6,000 tons of cane and of that produce about 600 tons of sugar. So in terms of dollars and cents, at the current prices of about $1,000 per ton – it is $600,000 that is an opportunity cost that the industry on a whole is suffering.”

Suffering that will continue since these farmer say they won’t be moved – which means the billowing clouds of smoke into Orange Walk’s sky may be gone until there is a resolution.

So as of tonight the strike stands. Representatives from the Cane Farmers Association met with Agriculture Minister Rene Montero this afternoon but there was no final resolution. A meeting of the Sugar Cane Quality Control Authority will begin at 7:30 this evening and it is hoped the matter will be resolved there. If not, then it will go to the Sugar Industry Control Board. But until then – the strike remains in effect.

We must mention that this is week 7 of the roughly 30 weeks of production of the factory. Also note worthy is that BSI says that during those first 7 weeks, only 6% of the farmers are receiving less than the average price. We must also note that last year was one of the worst for the sugar industry. Only 78,000 tons of sugar were exported, down considerably from the 97,000 tons in 2007.

Channel 7

#321302 - 01/29/09 02:28 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Feb 2007
Posts: 1,740
deadserious Offline
deadserious  Offline
I imaging my next Red Fanta will be a bit more expensive. mmmm red fanta.

Now back to your regularly scheduled drivel...
#321379 - 01/29/09 08:03 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: deadserious]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Sugar in Crisis (Part 3)

In the previous two articles, it was put forward that there are certain elements in the hierarchy of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) who are pursuing an agenda which does not represent the interests of the general membership of cane farmers.

For some time now some of these more vociferous leaders, with the CEO of the Association leading the charge, have been rattling their sabers and spoiling for a fight to show who exerts ultimate influence up North. Of course, not all farmers have supported this course and sat idly by allowing Magaña and company to do as they please, which will ultimately undermine not only our Association but the entire sugar industry and economy here in the North of Belize.

Presently there is a legal challenge to this entrenched BSCFA political faction which was initiated by a splinter group called the United Cane Farmers Association (UCFA). This case will be heard shortly in the Supreme Court and the result might be interesting to examine as it could impact the way business is conducted in the sugar industry in the future.

In the meantime, though, this small group of BSCFA directors, along with their CEO, is moving full steam ahead, this time not locking horns with BSI per se, but with the present government. They are trying to make might, right. Firstly though, let me explain some background in this new development and circumstance as it unfolds this Wednesday 28 day of January 2009.

On December 14, 2008, some two weeks into the new sugar cane grinding season, about two hundred farmers (from a total of 5,800) voted to unilaterally discontinue the new system of payment by quality for sugar cane delivered to BSI. This system was adopted with the full agreement of all stakeholders in the industry. It is a known fact that the only authority that could have implemented such a policy is the Sugar Industry Control Board, (SICB), which is the legal body charged with managing the Sugar Industry. The SICB is comprised of all the interests of the industry, namely; BSCFA, BSI and GOB (represented by the Ministry of Industry and by a chairman appointed by the Prime Minister).

On 15 January all stakeholders were requested to attend a meeting in Belmopan with the Prime Minister to discuss all the BSCFA’s concerns and identify solutions. It was agreed with the PM that the payment by quality would continue, even while the concerns of the Association were to be examined. It should be noted at this time that the policy of quality-based payment for sugar cane is a requirement of all the following: the Sugar Act of 2001, the National Adaptation Strategy for Sugar, the Accompanying Measures for Sugar sponsored by the EU, and a conditionality of the Fairtrade premium. All the parties present at the Prime Minister’s meeting agreed to issue a Memorandum of Agreement, and sub-committees were appointed to assess and modify as necessary any perceived inconsistency in the agreed system.

Four days after the meeting in Belmopan, the factional leaders of the BSCFA issued a terse letter to Hon. Nemencio Acosta, chairman of the SICB, advising him that they would not abide by the agreement with the PM and would adopt other measures which suited them and were under their direct control. They attended yet another scheduled meeting of the SICB on Thursday 22 January, where the entire BSCFA delegation once more agreed in principle to the quality improvement system but stated that they would be bound by the resolution of December 14 (which ‘coincidentally?’ was tabled by one PUP Cervantes of Orange Walk). The next day, Friday 23 January, the CEO of the BSCFA issued a release to the media advising that possible strike action by farmers would commence on Tuesday 27 January. That is the essence of the issue, leading up to the present moment.

The BSCFA initiated strike action at 10 o’clock am on Tuesday 27 January at the Core Sampler which sits at the approach gates of the BSI. This equipment is managed and operated by the Sugar Cane Quality Control Authority (SCQCA), a department of the SICB. In one of their principal demands, the leadership of the Association is seeking for the removal of Hon. Acosta from the SICB, among other outlandish requests. It has now become a head-on confrontation with the GOB. Who will lose in all this? Not Carlos Magaña, certainly, but the Government, us the farmers and the entire country. Think, my hermanos cañeros, let us not be deceived!

I have been insisting from the onset of this development that probably the intention of Magaña and the politically motivated directors is to destabilize the sugar industry and embarrass the government. If they were sincerely concerned with the welfare of the farmers, they would embrace the system that they wholly committed to only recently, since the system of payment by quality is performing quite adequately. It can be proven that the majority of farmers (near 60%) are reaping significant benefits from this system, while the bulk of the residual farmers form a cluster around the average price (which is about 40 cents a ton below the regular price). As cane quality improves, as will be the case, all farmers will ultimately benefit from better prices.

It has now become a confrontation to show who wields the reins to power up here in the North. It is a dispute that can well bring an end to the cabal that presently rules the BSCFA with impunity, and to the stranglehold it has held on farmers for many years. Our organization has never been beseeched with so many challenging problems since Magaña and his political faction took over the administration of the Association.

If this misguided group would have focused its energies in strengthening the Cane Farmers’ Association all of us would have been in a better position to benefit from a system that we have long known that must be implemented. We cannot remain doing business the same way our grandparents did; the world is changing and the people who purchase our sugar and molasses products are demanding better quality. Personally, I think Magaña must leave our Association. He has brought us nothing but woe.

The Guardian

EDITORIAL – A core problem
On Tuesday, cane farmers from the Corozal and Orange Walk districts decided to go on strike; they stopped delivering cane to the BSI factory. Farmers say that they had to resort to these measures because of a piece of equipment that is called a Core Sampler.

In essence what the Sampler does is take a sample of cane that is brought in by every cane farmer and determine its quality. The problem that has arisen is not that the Core Sampler is being used; in fact that method of testing cane quality has been in existence for quite a long time now. The problem is that individual cane farmers are being affected by the method by which the samples are taken.

Every farmer now is personally made responsible for the quality of cane that they deliver to BSI. They are then paid based on the quality of cane that they deliver. Previously the way it was done was by associations. The Core Sampler would take samples from all those delivering cane; however, payment would be made based on the quality of cane delivered by the entire association be it the Corozal or Orange Walk associations.

That meant that farmers delivering higher quality cane would be subsidizing those that would deliver cane of a lower quality. That is no more and each farmer now is responsible for his own cane and its quality.

Depending on that then, payment is made to farmers which now see some farmers being paid at times up to two dollars less per ton while others are being paid more for their deliveries. It would appear to be a fair enough system but cane farmers don’t think so and have opted for a pause in delivery of cane to the sugar factory.

While the issue is presenting itself now, the reality is that for quite a number of years the sugar industry has been at crossroads. The preferential markets that Belize’s sugar enjoyed in the past have been disappearing forcing the industry to become more efficient. The problem is that over the years there has been very little done in terms of preparation to become more efficient.

Now the industry is trying to do just that and farmers simply are not prepared. But it is not because there has not been ample warning or lack of funding. The truth is that over the years organizations like the European Union and others have been investing into improving the efficiency of the industry; however, those efforts have never really impacted on the individual farmers.

Whatever the reason for improved efficiency not being accomplished what is taking place now is that efficiency is being forced on to the farmers and they are not prepared for it. The dilemma now is that government finds itself in the middle of a dispute between cane producers and BSI. There is no easy solution to the problem. It is going to be a very difficult road ahead because it appears that the Core Sampler will continue to be used and with farmers already harvesting there is little now that can be done to improve the quality of the product delivered.

The only thing that is for certain is that farmers find themselves being forced into efficiency, but they have never been prepared for it. Hopefully the sugar industry issues can be resolved amicably, and focus can be directed to ensure that come the next season cane farmers would have gotten some preparation to ensure that their crop’s quality is better than before.

The Guardian

Last edited by Marty; 01/29/09 08:03 PM.
#321648 - 01/31/09 10:18 AM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 56,980
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
Strike puts cane season on hold … indefinitely

There is strong talk coming tonight from the Belize Cane Farmers Association in day four of a strike involving three entities in the sugar cane industry and the introduction of a new pricing mechanism. Word to News Five late this evening is that the Cane Farmers Association has upped the ante as three meetings with the Sugar Industry Control Board and Belize Sugar Industries Limited have been unable to reach any amicable resolution to the crisis. The Association earlier in the week requested that S.I.C.B. and B.S.I. suspend use of the Core Sampler which is testing the quality of cane for pricing. And after many days of strike, the Cane Farmers Association today decided to put the 7-week cane season on hold indefinitely. This is a drastic move that is bound to seriously impact the industry and can have weighty economic repercussions. C.E.O. for the Association, Carlos Magaňa, explains.

Voice of Carlos Magana, C.E.O., Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Assn.
“A vote was taken throughout the assembly that there is an indefinite stop until the Core Sampler is removed.”

Duane Moody
“What is the effect that it is going to have on BSI and basically the sugar industry?”

Voice of Carlos Magana
“I don’t want to comment on that right now, that’s why we need to have a meeting on Sunday morning or Saturday tomorrow night to be able to determine the economic impact that it is going to have and also make an economic — dual assessment. One, what would be the impact if it continues through the crop and two what is the economic impact it is suffering right now.”

Duane Moody
“And this is going to stay basically as norm until something is done right?”

Voice of Carlos Magana
“Exactly, exactly.”

Duane Moody
“Do you feel that what you guys are doing now will sway their minds?”

Voice of Carlos Magana
“Whose minds?”

Duane Moody
“S.I.C.B. and B.S.I. because who’s the person that implemented…”

Voice of Carlos Magana
“I don’t think so, because they came out and gave their position also and I don’t think so. It is still going to be a tough negotiation and the position of the Association at this time is suspension of the cane season. We will no longer call for negotiations; they will have to call us to negotiate now.”

Cane delivery has now come to a complete halt at the Tower Hill Sugar Mill. We’ll keep you posted on future developments in the industry.

#321990 - 02/02/09 03:56 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Lan Sluder/Belize First  Offline
Do I understand correctly that PM Barrow has set a 4 p.m. deadline to the cane farmers -- disperse or he'll send in security forces?

--Lan Sluder

Lan Sluder/Belize First
#322006 - 02/02/09 05:06 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Lan Sluder/Belize First]  
Joined: Apr 2000
Posts: 3,054
Lan Sluder/Belize First Offline
Lan Sluder/Belize First  Offline
Violence going on in Orange Walk apparently -- LOVE-FM is reporting several injured so far.

This is not good for anyone.

--Lan Sluder

#322011 - 02/02/09 05:44 PM Re: Trouble brewing in sugar industry [Re: Lan Sluder/Belize First]  
Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,443
Short Offline
Short  Offline
I hear the BDF started shooting protesters before PM Barrow's ultimatum expired??[Linked Image]

Live and let live
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