The Citrus Growers Association of Belize held a special general membership meeting on Saturday at its headquarters at mile nine on the Stann Creek Valley Road. The meeting was a follow up to one held at the end of February and dealt with three main agenda items, including prices, and updates on arbitration and cash flow problems at CPBL. With regards to the prices, Chief Executive Officer Henry Anderson told Love News that the CGA reported to members on grape fruit prices.

Henry Anderson – CEO, Citrus Growers Association

“It’s at $6.19 per box. At the last meeting we reported that we are expecting a new price for oranges; we got that new price, it has yet to be accepted. That new price when accepted will be around $12.21 per box which would mean that growers will be getting about 15% more than the first price. What we have pointed out to growers is that when you look at the price per pound solid in the world market, at $12.21 per box now, that is the highest that they have ever been getting and essentially that is because of the arbitration findings that ensured that CPBL had to provide more information to CGA and because we are more diligent in following up these things, that some of the anomalies that we have would see in the past we are not seeing as much again. We highlighted that there are still some issues with some prices going into the Caribbean and that is an ongoing matter.”

Saturday morning’s meeting also gave members an update on Implementation of Arbitration Recommendations, as it regards the discrepancy in pound solids between factory and pound solids lab for orange, sanctioned by the Citrus Control Board. Anderson says that the technical audit was carried out by two consultants from Florida and that they found some surprising revelations.

Henry Anderson – CEO, Citrus Growers Association

“They came in and they found areas where we could improve how the samplers work, where the factory can improve its efficiency by doing some changes to the extractors and to do some other settings. Some of the stuff they have come up with, I think they have learnt, these are like preparatory things, over the years. What they were able to demonstrate is that the factory can and should be getting yields more than the lab. They demonstrated that our factory when they did their tests, it was about 4.8% more than the lab and the other one was about 7% more than the lab; that is just for the day they did the test. What they are saying that it should be above and given the recommendations I mentioned they were saying to be done, that it would be higher and above. The factory indicated to us that over the course of this current season they are actually 2% above the lab, we are talking about oranges. What we reported to the growers that while this was good news that the factory is above the lab, it is strange in the sense that nothing changed from last year and last year they 2.9 before so you have a 5% swing in production just as the same time you are trying to find out what is the problem and the factory is saying that they really haven’t made any major changes with the extractors and stuff. They made some changes based on what came out of the arbitration report in terms of the sales to make sure that the amount of fruits that is being paid for is actually passing through. This raises some concerns Patrick because you have a trend for five years that the factory’s productivity is going down as it relates to the lab, now that it has a 5% turn, then it begs the question what caused that, was it that the factory was paying for fruits it was not getting and certain growers were getting those payments and if you are paying for fruits but you are not physically getting the fruits then you will never be able to get the pound solids. Or was it that those pound solids were actually produced and mysteriously went somewhere else and did not appear in the price formula. We can’t be sure if it is a combination of both or is either or but it does leave a big pressing issue as to what happened and how things have now mysteriously turned around, noh.”

Anderson says that the mysterious turn around will likely end up before the Citrus Control Board for final determination of the way forward.

Henry Anderson – CEO, Citrus Growers Association

“We are awaiting the final report of the consultants which will be due in a week’s time. Therein it was made to look at what is now and how to get it better but they have confirmed that the factory is reporting more than the lab and the factory is confirming the very same so that is something that we sit down and discuss and negotiate.”

Patrick Jones - Reporter

What is the way forward now, what happens until that report comes in?

Henry Anderson – CEO, Citrus Growers Association

“We wait for it to come in, that should come in by the end of the week and then the Committee of Management would have to look at it and then we decide, we go back to the Citrus Control Board, I can’t pre-empt anything here. The point I am making to you is that there is a 5% turnaround in productivity and if you understand what is happening here, that did not happen just like that so that raises its own issues here, noh.”

According to the CGA official, on Friday evening he was served with a court order on behalf of some non-paying members, allowing them to be able to attend Saturday’s meeting. Despite the court order, Anderson says that only one of the aggrieved members actually showed up for the special general meeting. Love News spoke with CEO of Citrus Products of Belize Dr. Henry Canton who said the rationale behind the high prices that growers will be receiving has nothing to do with the reports they are required to submit.

Dr. Henry Canton – CEO, CPBL

“I think that reason why the growers are getting the highest price paid to them is because we have a very strong, high price on the world market and the fact that this year unlike many other years the yield per box of fruit is a lot higher this year than before due to climatic conditions or whatever conditions the fields are having. It is the combination of good yield and also high prices that are giving that; it has nothing to do with the report that we give to them.”

Canton said the difference between the trend of the previous years compared to this year can be explained easily.

Dr. Henry Canton – CEO, CPBL

“There was a discrepancy between the front door which is what the pound solids authority reports that the growers deliver and then basically the back door or the yield that the factory gets. Historically we were ahead for the first two or three years that we were doing pound solids by about a point and a half two percent and then it slid, and it slid rapidly in one year and then it slid to the 2.9% that he referred to last year. This year we are back up again by between 2 and 4%. There are a number of reasons why something like that would happen and it is technically based. Primarily based on the quality of fruits, how the fruit was delivered in and the mix of products that we are making because when we are making pulp we extract solids also out of the juice along with the pulp so there are a number of explainable issues. One of the things that did come out of the summary of the report in the interim report of the technical audit was the fact that there are some serious issues on the sampling of fruits at the pound solids where there is a larger portion of the smaller fruits being selected by the sampler and that smaller fruits versus larger fruits there is as much as a difference two points in the amount of solids in the juice which is able to impact substantively the yield of the front door. What that means is that if the factory at the front with the smaller fruits was artificially higher because the sample is not representative of the load of fruit then the factory would not be extracting what the front door is saying but be extracting what it gets from the load of fruit; therefore that would be setting a false threshold at the front and not being able to collect it at the back because the factory is just like a computer if garbage goes in the front, garbage will come out the back and what goes in the front comes out the back.”