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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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The start of the 2009 - 2010 Sugar Cane Crop has been delayed by at least two weeks; and even though the new start date announced is this Wednesday, it appears that trouble is brewing again in the sugar industry. A press release sent to the RSV Media Centre this afternoon announced that a group of concerned cane farmers belonging to the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association from the Corozal district met on Sunday to discuss various issues which they claim are confronting the Association. These include alleged corruption, political interference and bankruptcy. As a result of Sunday's meeting, the release from the group of concerned cane farmers says that a new association was formed under the umbrella of the St. Francis Xavier Credit Union from where the farmers have been getting financing, fertilizers, agro-chemicals and other financial benefits. The release says that the motion to form the new association was unanimously approved and a provisional committee was formed to guide and oversee the process of the formation of this new association. That provisional committee lists its nine members as: Vicente Canul from the Patchakan Branch; Lucilo Teck from San Victor; Andres Campos Cawich, San Narciso; Felipe Tzul, Patchakan; Jorge Cob, Louisville; Agustin Cortez, San Victor; Antonia Castaneda and Jose Luis Salazar from the Corozal branch and Victor Pena from the Louisville branch. The provisional committee has scheduled a meeting of the cane farmers of both the Corozal and Orange Walk divisions for this coming Saturday at the Ecuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico, in San Roman village, in the Corozal District. Saturday's meeting is set to start at nine o'clock in the morning, and will be to inform the cane farmers of the formation of the new association and to offer membership in the new group. The concerned farmers' press release ends by saying that the group sees the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding or of an accommodation agreement between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the United Cane Farmers Association outside of the court system as a positive step towards making the Sugar Cane Industry more viable and stable.


Joined: Nov 2002
Posts: 2,537
Delayed sugar cane season finally opened

[Linked Image] It is one of Belize's top exports and while production has declined, today's reopening of the sugar cane season has brought relief to cane farmers in the sugar belt. That's the good news, the bad is the delay has created a real possibility that payments may be late and not in time for Christmas. The late start was caused by work at the Belize Sugar Industries compound at Tower Hill in preparation for the Belize Cogeneration Project, which is scheduled to come on stream on January first. B.S.I. officials told News Five's Marion Ali that they are doing their best to expedite payment.

Marion Ali, Reporting

The mill at the Belize Sugar Industries Limited started processing sugarcane late Wednesday night after a lengthy delay at Tower Hill. The imminent introduction of the Belize Cogeneration project prevented any kind of factory work for the past couple of weeks. But while the delay was necessary, Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Cane Farmers Association, David Madrid says it has created a real problem for the cane farmers at this time of year.

David Madrid, C.E.O., Cane Farmers' Assn.

"This is detrimental to the farmers because they need the Christmas money. They have debts that they have to pay and usually when you budget yourself like they do in a seasonal activity, they were depending on the money to start coming in mid December."

The late start was compounded by heavy rains that have inundated cane fields. But there is hope, according to Factory Manager of B.S.I., John Gillett.

John Gillett, Factory Mgr., B.S.I.

"We started to receive cane yesterday. We received just over nine hundred tons of cane and depends on what the farmers deliver, they will be paid. So some revenue will be coming in before Christmas."

With the financial constraints being imposed by the European Union on developing countries like Belize, coupled with a decrease in local yield, the sugar industry has endured its share of challenges in recent years. But Gillett says the horizon looks promising.

John Gillett

"What we need to do at this time is get up the production so as to offset any reduction in revenue, but unless we have the cane available. This year we expect to be milling maybe about one point one million tons of cane and we would hope that the production would be around a hundred and eighteen, hundred and twenty thousand tons of sugar."

Marion Ali

"What are you using now as an alternative to the core sampler?"

John Gillett

"As far as I know, nothing. There should have been a quality improvement program. The farmers should have taken that on. I have not seen any replacement for that yet."

That replacement is expected to take place in the coming year. Sugar production was down in 2009 but just in case you were wondering, Gillett assures that there will be sufficient supply of sugar for Christmas. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

In the most productive year, a hundred and twenty-three thousand tons of sugar was produced in 2001. But this year the crop only yielded ninety-two thousand tons. Belize earned just over a hundred million dollars in revenues from sugar cane exportation.

Live and let live
Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Cane Farmers Block Entrance to Tower Hill

Tonight there is unrest brewing again in the sugar industry. This afternoon at about 2:30, members of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association blocked the entrance to the Tower Hill Factory as an act of protest against the management of the factory. At this time, they have stopped blocking the entrance – but the mood is still tense as police have been brought in and there are angry cane farmers on site.

The problem started a few weeks ago when the factory opened on December 16th, the latest opening date in recent recall. Since then, the factory operations have been repeatedly stalled by a malfunctioning boiler. It’s a new one that was brought in to complement BSI’s Belcogen plant, but it hasn’t been able to produce enough steam to complement the sugar refinement process. So the factory’s operation has been stalled, deliveries have been delayed and cane farmers have been left waiting with their cane – some say, for days at a time.

The interim CEO of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association’s Dave Madrid told us this morning that it is “a mechanical problem”, which is the product of some “poor managerial decisions” made by BSI and “unfortunately the farmers are the ones who will suffer.” Madrid spoke to us before a meeting of the Association’s membership held in Orange Walk Town to discuss the difficulties. Our sources told us that at the meeting members would agitate for a strike. But before the meeting the CEO Madrid told us that he would strongly advise against that because, “a strike will not serve the better interests of the farmer.”

But, strike it is, or at least that’s what it looks like tonight as quite spontaneously after two this afternoon association members blocked the gate – saying that they will not resume deliveries until BSI’s management consults with their leadership about the difficulties with the boiler. Our team was there late this afternoon and here’s what cane farmer Jose Mai told us he as an independent farmer is angry about.

Jose Mai, Cane Farmer
“The factory was expected to receive to process 6,000 tons a day. As a matter of fact in an interview with the executives from the Sugar Factory they had indicated that they will anticipate to grinding 1.4 million tonnes in 32 weeks. The problem with the factory is because of the new technology which is BELCOGEN they seem to have been technical problems at the factory. It is supposed to generate enough steam to generate electricity turn the turbines and all the motors that require the sugar cane processing. Unfortunately it seems that everything is not in order at the factory and BELCOGEN and as a result of that they are only grinding 1,000 tonnes a day. That is only one sixth of what they are supposed to be doing.

The farmers are delivering green cane which takes a longer time for the cane to deteriorate which is good but due to the inability to grind the cane, it is stockpiled in the cane yard and the quality is deteriorating, the TCTS which is the quality of the cane is terrible. Last report was 14.7 tonnes of cane for one tonne of sugar. If that is right and there are reasons to believe that it may be worse, it might be even up to 16 tonnes of cane to make one tonne of sugar, that is no business for the cane farmers. The cane farmers have decided that they will not continue to deliver cane until BSI gets its machinery working and synchronizing everything in there. At 14 tonnes of cane for one tonne of sugar it is not money, cane farmers are losing big time there.

When they finished the crop this year it was nine tonnes of cane for one tonne of sugar which is excellent, it is like I am telling you a tomato farmer sold it at a ten dollars a bucket when you can sell it at 25 dollars a bucket. So we are telling BSI this is not a strike, this is a business decision based on technical information.

The leaders of the association are in a meeting right now with BSI and we are hoping to get something resolved. I want to believe that BSI will correct themselves in there. I am being told unofficially that it may even take a month. A month to fix everything in there, that is a serious setback because I am sure that even if I have a million tonnes of cane out there, we will not be able to grind that. So this year will be an even more difficult year for the cane farmers.

We don’t want this to escalate like February of 2009. We don’t want it to escalate, we don’t want violence but we need to sit down and respect each other and say listen what are the alternatives we have, we can understand. They call us fools, they call us ignorant because we are cane farmers.”

And that sentiment is shared by many – but there is no unitary response from the cane farmers. And that’s because it’s farmer versus farmer in this case. An important footnote to this entire flare-up is that the industry whose entire unified membership was once contained under the single tent of the Cane Farmers Association is now splintered into at least three different groups. The two newcomers are the United Cane Farmers Association and more recently, the Corozal Sugar Cane Producer’s Association. That has created tension between caneros on the ground at this hour, because the cane farmers association doesn’t want any cane to be delivered, but the United Cane Farmers and the Corozal Cane Producers want to continue making deliveries.

So the caneros are divided, which we gather suits BSI just fine, since it can effectively play one association against the other – while ensuring that cane will continue to be delivered. And that’s what was happening this evening. After the initial blockage of the main gate at about 2:30 – the Sugar Cane Farmers relented and let farmers from the other associations through. This was facilitated in no small part by the heavy presence of police but the bottom line is cane continues to be delivered.

At news time, meetings were ongoing between the Sugar Industry Control Board – which is a government controlled body and the BSI management. We’ll keep watching it, and have an update in tomorrow night’s news.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,395
Marty Offline OP
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Things Normal Again at Tower Hill

Today things were back to normal at BSI’s Tower Hill Factory. Yesterday afternoon, Caneros from the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association briefly blocked the entrance to the factory. They did it to protest the very low rate of production since the season started in mid December.

But the situation was defused without incident and today Dave Madrid the interim CEO of the Association told us that deliveries are aback to normal and that they have come to an understanding with BSI. But production is still not at the desired six thousand tonnes a day – he says that the factory management has committed to increase it so that farmers will not have to be waiting around for days to deliver their cane.

He says it will take a few weeks to get to the desired level of six thousand tones a day but he says the farmers are prepared to accept steady progress towards that target. He said he expects that in fifteen to thirty days they will be able to get to that mark of six thousand tonnes.

Channel 7

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