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#406961 - 05/05/11 07:44 AM No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply  
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Up north, Sugar production at Tower Hill came to a grinding halt in mid-February. The shutdown came when a pair of turbines at the BELCOGEN plant was rendered inoperable. The faulty machinery was subsequently sent to Guatemala for urgent repairs and six weeks later the Belize Sugar Industries factory was back in business. But tonight there is growing concern among farmers that there will be an insufficient supply of sugarcane this crop season as a result of climate change and other quality related problems they are facing in the fields. Despite the scarcity of sugarcane to be milled within the next few weeks, Alfredo Ortega, Chairman of the Committee of Management of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, says that the shortage should not affect sugar supply.

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

“I don’t believe it will be a scarcity of sugar. What we are experiencing at this point in time is a scarcity in production, in sugarcane production. But even though with the default in the relation to the amount of sugarcane production we are seeing a good… that is providing us a much better amount of sugar with a lower amount of sugarcane. So the scarcity will be on us in regards to the sugarcane but not in sugar. As you know last year we had an extended crop [season] whereby we ended out way to the end of August and we’re experiencing at this point in time that those cane fields that were harvested between the months of July to the end of August, most of them if not all of them won’t be ready for harvesting in this crop [season]. And we had an amount of cane of over two hundred and fifty thousand tons of mature cane that was unable to be harvested last year and this year many farmers had experienced a full loss. In some areas others had a seventy to eighty percent loss in those areas that were not harvested last year due to rat problems and the… problem that farmers experienced last year. So these are issues that have harmed the production of cane and the other issue is the climate. The weather that we have experienced, as you know last year we had rains almost the full harvesting season and it was very heavy rains that we experienced at that time and we had an amount of dry weather during the month of September and October and then we had another huge amount of rains. From there we had experienced from since December up to today quite a high temperature that we are experiencing. Even though this temperature is helping us in the harvesting, in the present harvesting that we are doing but it is damaging us in regards to the growth of the sugarcane.”

According to Ortega while the issue of extremely high temperatures is beyond their control they have taken measures to address the diseases plaguing their crops.

Channel 5

#407480 - 05/11/11 08:52 AM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
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Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporting...
Consumers in certain areas of the county have raised concerns over what appears to be a shortage of sugar on the local market. BSI factory manager John Gillett says that while there is no shortage of sugar, it has had to limit buyers to purchasing a certain amount of sugar.

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
“We get requests everyday and we have to control the amount of sugar that is being sold. If we would just go according to the demand we will be selling much more than we can produce in terms of the plantation white sugar so what we have used, we have used the historical usage that each customer has been getting over the years and that is exactly what we are going by. We will have no new customer coming in at this time to buy sugar. We are forecasting to make 13,500 tons of plantation white sugar for this year as compared to 12,000 for last year. No doubt there’s only a certain amount of sugar we can make. If we would go by the demand presently it means then that we would need to double that production which we will not be able to do because we have other markets to satisfy likewise."

Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporter
In other words you can’t meet the local demand for sugar?

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
“I would not say that. We will meet the local demand for sugar. What is happening, I will say we cannot meet the local and demands beyond the borders, we cannot do that. What is happening right now some people who want to buy sugar they want to take the sugar over the border and we just cannot satisfy locally and international, when I say international, just over the borders."

Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporter
When it comes to people who come to BSI to purchase, they are getting limitations as to how much they can buy?

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
“Of course because it is based on the historical usage.”

Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporter
How do you determine where the sugar is going to go once they purchase it?

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
"Once it exits the gate we would expect that it reaches the consumer. We do not police where the sugar goes, it is not BSI’s responsibility to police where the sugar goes."

Manuela Ayuso Cantun reporter
We have been getting a lot of concerns and I am sure that you have been getting your share of calls as well because we understand that there are some people in certain areas of the country that cannot get sugar.

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
“As I said we have been satisfying all the regular users of sugar, the customers who have been purchasing sugar all the years and that is exactly what we continue to do. We cannot accommodate any new customer. The demand has increased quite a bit. We are selling 1000 tons sugar more than last year at this time. The two type of sugar that we make, the plantation white sugar and the local brown sugar. While the local brown sugar the production is stable, the demand is on the plantation white sugar because as you know the sugar across our borders fetches about three times the price of sugar in Belize.”

Consumers should also be aware that the price of sugar has not changed.

John Gillett - Factory Manager, BSI
“Unlike what people have been saying that sugar price remains unchanged. Sugar should not be retailing at more than 50 cents per pound within the shops itself. The white sugar goes for $44.42 per 112 pound bag and the brown sugar is going for $38.41 per 112 pound bag. The price of sugar has not changed for a number of years now so there is no need why consumers should be paying anymore for sugar than they have done recently.”


#407792 - 05/14/11 10:04 AM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
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Is sugar scarce?

There is a reported shortage of locally produced sugar. The Belize Sugar Industries is producing twelve thousand tons for local consumption, that’s one thousand tons more than it did last crop. The shortage is not caused because the nation’s appetite for sugar has increased; it’s because the primary concession holders are not supplying the local retailers and are smuggling it across the Guatemala and Mexico borders where sugar fetches up to four times the value. The local prices range from forty seven dollars per a hundred pound bag at the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation and up to fifty-four dollars from other suppliers. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The current sugar crop season, since it began on December fifteenth last year, has been plagued with numerous setbacks. Undoubtedly, the industry has been facing serious financial difficulties. The issues range from a much needed bailout last December to the shutting down of the factory at Tower Hill in the wake of mechanical failures in mid-February. Despite the resumption of operations recently there is still another problem looming. Over the past two weeks there has been a dearth in sugar being made available to the local market. For Stephen Okeke, proprietor of Joy Ice Cream & Juices, the scarcity has meant a complete halt in business.

Stephen Okeke

Stephen Okeke, Proprietor, Joy Ice Cream & Juices

“Its affecting us tremendously because when we go to the shops the sugar is rationed. We need at least three hundred pounds a day to operate our business because we have to wash the sugar, we have to prepare it properly [and] filter it so as to meet some of the health requirements of some of our customers.”

Joy Ice Cream & Juices is a recently established small enterprise; however, the increasing demand for natural juices has forced Okeke to expand his staff as well as his stock in order to meet consumer requirements. At Joy’s the commodity is used as an additive.

Stephen Okeke

“We use the sugar as preservative for the juices. All the juices are made from natural fruits so if you dont use the sugar the way we use it [then] within three hours the juices crack and without the sugar we have no business. Like today we have stopped operation completely and if this thing continues for the next one week [then] were out of business. Out of business means ten people we employ directly [are] out of jobs. We dont want to lose our jobs because of sugar.”

According to Okeke the problem has a lot to do with the exportation of sugar to Guatemala where it is sold at a considerably higher price.

Stephen Okeke

“We manufacture sugar right [here] in Belize just across the neighborhood right in Orange Walk here. Give us some sugar. We’ve tried to contact B.S.I., B.S.I. says it’s the distributors who are sending the sugar to Guatemala because they sell it for six times the local price. I have no problem with their kind of business but give us some sugar. I went to the Marketing Board yesterday and the Marketing Board says B.S.I. has cut their quota tremendously. They get maybe less than a quarter of what they should be getting. In fact, yesterday they got only twenty-five bags. So when their supermarket customers come they can only give one person a sack or two and they don’t know, B.S.I. says they don’t know when they will get again.”

The uncertainty of when the next supply of sugar will be delivered to the Marketing Board has raised concerns among wholesale consumers. To make matters worse the existing quantity is being controlled.

Stephen Okeke

“You cant tell me that in Belize we are rationing sugar one pound for each person. And the only way we have been operating so far at a tremendous loss is we send one of our workers to go buy sugar, one five pounds and the next one to go buy the next five pounds. No man! You dont do that. We are trying to create jobs. Why should we sit back and the let the ones we have created already get out of our hands? Give us some sugar. This problem can be solved within one hour [just] pick up the phone and call these guys [and] get them to do their jobs. Give us some sugar man. We cant be rationing sugar in Belize. There is no war here [and] were not in any kind of combat. [Just] give us some sugar.”

The problem, says Okeke, is that a blame game is being played amongst the parties involved. He believes that the issue can be resolved with a simple phone call from the Prime Minister.

Stephen Okeke

“So this guy is accusing B.S.I., B.S.I. is accusing this other guy. Its simple, somebody go to BSI and see their delivery inventory and see how much theyre really delivering and go to these guys and see how much theyre receiving. That will tell us who is doing what. But that is not what our concern is. Give us some sugar to do our business. And Im calling on the Prime Minister, I dont call on the Prime Minister for frivolous things [but] this is a national crisis. Its a sugar crisis. Pick up the phone and call the guy in charge of the sugar industry [and ask him] What are you doing? Where is te sugar going?

News Five attempted to reach Roque Mai, the managing director of the Belize Marketing & Development Corporation, for comment earlier but we were told that he was out office. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

#407794 - 05/14/11 10:07 AM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
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Okeke Says Sugar Shortage Could Force A Shutdown

If there's one thing Belizeans produce in abundance it's sugar, enough for the local and export markets. But one local businessman - juice maker Steven Okeke - says a sugar shortage is souring the business climate. Today 7news met up with Okeke at one of his business locations where he says, the sugar shortage is threatening to shut him down:…

Steven Okeke
"It's shutting our business completely. In fact of the past two weeks it's been difficult to get what we need. We have been stealing buying - you send one staff to go to one shop and buy a pound because they can't give you more than a pound. Then you send the next staff to buy 5 pounds somewhere because they are rationing sugar in Belize as if there is war. It's unfortunate they are shutting down the business, there are similar business like this is shutting down too. In our own case we need the sugar as preservative because our juices are natural. After 3 hours they will crack, so we use the sugar to help it stay up to six hours - we don't use it to enhance the sweetness just to help it to stay natural. we need it badly because that is the only way we can do business. We are making effort to increase more business - why should we let the ones we have created already get destroyed? the guy from BSI is saying that the quota that us meant for the distributors is sent to the distributors - some of the distributors are sending it over to Guatemala that's his own words because in Guatemala it fetches 6 times the price in Belize. If somebody sends a bag of sugar to Guatemala - they guy makes $250.00 profit, so 2,000 bags gives you half a million dollars in two days, so it's a good business anyway but we are saying give us some sugar. I went to the Belize Marketing Board and they said yesterday that they only have 25 bags for all their customers. I went to Cisco distributors and they say their warehouse is empty, in fact some of the distributors are saying that it is Belize Marketing Board that is colluding with somebody to send the sugar to Guatemala. This is something that can be simply be investigated, go to Belize Marketing Board and find out if the quantity they say they are sending to the distributors is actually been sent to the distributors and find out from the distributors if they are receiving the quantity they say have been sent to them."

According to BSI, there is not a sugar shortage - at least not on their part. In a telephone interview with Marketing Manager Damian Goff, he explained that the shortage is not a result of sugar under-production - instead they have received information that there is an illicit cross border trade taking place - where sugar is leaving the country for Guatemala and Mexico where it is being purchased for more than double the price.

Damian Goff, BSI Marketing Manager
"I'll state for the record that categorically there isn't a sugar shortage in the country right now and certainly not one that is in any way related production or capacity of production. We are on track to have one of the best crops that we have had production wise over the last 3-4 years. Certainly we will surpass last year's production. What happens is that as a company we only produce a certain amount of white sugar or the local market on a year to year basis, based on historical consumption patterns of the Belizean consumers and so we normally only produce about 14,000 tons of sugar for the local market every year and this year we expect that the market should be able to consume that same amount of sugar so we will produce sugar to meet what the market has historically consume. What I will say is that, what we think is at the root of the problem why they maybe the appearance of a sugar shortage is that due to prices for sugar in the neighboring Guatemala and Mexico - what we have found is that there is a significant amount of cross-border trade occurring where Belizeans are buying sugar from the factory and there is a significant volume that is making its way over the border. We don't necessarily have any control over that because we sell freely to businesses and freighters that are buying sugar in bulk with the intension of servicing the local market but what apparently seems to be happening is that in many instances a good portion of the sugar is making its way across the border and so it's being done almost to the detriment of the legitimate users of sugar in the Belizean market in that they are unable to get the amount of sugar that they need."

Monica Bodden
"So you are saying that this sugar shortage has nothing to do with BSI?"

Damian Goff, BSI Marketing Manager
"Yes, I'll say that categorically, as I said it's not necessarily one of production we are fully on track to produce the amount of sugar that we normally produce for the local market."

Channel 7

#407812 - 05/14/11 12:12 PM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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from a friend....

The Argument is; that BSI is exporting our sugar to Guatemala as they pay 6 times the local market value. Thus leaving juice entrepreneurs and others with a sugar shortage and they are apparently allowed only to buy 1 lb at a time. The guy said he has hired people to do nothing but go to grocery stores to buy sugar as he uses 200 lbs a day.

#407981 - 05/17/11 08:28 AM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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Sugar shortage in Belize because of export market

As we reported last week, though produced locally, sugar has become a scarce commodity on grocery store shelves across the country. However, the two weeks shortage cannot be attributed to a lack of production by Belize Sugar Industries Limited. Instead, the Tower Hill factory has stepped up production considerably, churning out an additional thousand tons of sugar during the current crop season to supply the local demand. According to Alfredo Ortega of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, more sugar has been made available for domestic use despite the fact that it is being illegally shipped to neighboring Mexico and Guatemala by wholesale distributors. News Five spoke with Ortega by phone today and he told us that the border agencies can play a role in a solution to the smuggling.

Voice of: Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A.

Alfredo Ortega

“Well presently the sugar scarcity is because of the sugar being smuggled out of Belize. In regards to the production of sugar BSI is producing sugar, even more than what was produced last year for local consumption. According to Mr. John Gillett, we had a meeting on Wednesday last week that they have sold already one thousand tons more than last year around this same time. But the problem with the scarcity of sugar with regards to some grocery shops is because most of the sugar is being smuggled out of Belize. And those people that have the concession of buying the sugar directly from B.S.I. they are the ones that are not supplying these grocery shops with the amount they should have been supplying these grocery stores. Mostly instead they are shipping our sugar out of our borders. The only people we can rely on is the Customs Department or our security forces to stop the smuggling of sugar out of Belize because as businesspeople we cannot stop the businessmen from doing those types of activities. What has happened and is [currently] going on is that the price of sugar is three to four times higher out of our borders than what is being sold here in Belize.”

Isani Cayetano

“How do we deal with this issue locally? I know this has created quite a bit of a problem for business owners who need to use sugar in the production of their different juices, for instance, and other products?”

Alfredo Ortega

“Well I think that it would be good that they go to B.S.I. and present that they are businesspeople so that they can buy their sugar directly from B.S.I. instead of awaiting from providers that they usually have.”

Several businesses including bakeries and others which consume sugar to manufacture pastries, ideals and fruit juices have had to downsize their operations significantly in the wake of its scarcity. News Five again made an attempt to contact Roque Mai at the Belize Marketing & Development Corporation for comment on the matter but we were told once again that he was unavailable.

Channel 5

#408242 - 05/19/11 08:30 PM Re: No shortage of sugar despite dwindling cane supply [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
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From Lee Vanderwalker

"No Sugga inna Caye Caulker bring fram de City" the text message read
on Tuesday morning, from Shirlene.
"No sugar on the Caye, need to get some before you drop me at the
water taxi." I tell my taximan
HE: Well gud luk wid dat, sugga scayce right now."
ME: For tru? Chiney shop noh hav?
HE: It all inaa de newspapa, dey carry too much da Guatemala, sell it
on de block markit, get 6 times de amount we pay inna Belize. Greedy
ME: Me noh pay tenshun da newspaypa
So I dash into Sav-U-by-de-roundabout, to the sugar aisle and it was
empty. EMPTY. EMPTY EMPTY. Almost in a panic (sweating and
hyperventillating) I asked the young boy stocking the shelves, about
sugar... "Yu hav, yu noh hav?"
"We hav" he say, slowly backing away, "Sugga scarce, yu cyan hev only
5 pownd." and went to the back room to get it.
"All de mi giv me is 5 pownd" I tell my taxi man, "Mek you ker sum fa
me" I hand my taxi man a $5

Midmorning clandestine sugar purchases. My taximan comes out of the
store walking nonchalant, like the sugar is for HIM, giving a little
skip. A conspiratorial smile on his face. Hmmmph! Always a way to beat
the system.

The crux of the problem is that there is no production problem in
Belize, the sugar prodcers say they have been selling enough to the
local distrubutors, but these same distributors have been illegally
exporting sugar to Guatemala, shorting the local economy, because they
can get up to 6x the amount than what we pay here with our government
price controls on basic commodities.

So, with sugar so scarce, I have stopped vacuuming the ants out of it.

"What are these insects?" a tourist man said pointing to the sugar jar.
I pretend to peer at it, knowing full well what he's pointing at. "Oh,
those are just sugar ants" not paying him any mind "Totally edible."
I see his stomach turn. I actually physically see it, and think "stop
being such a cry baby man".
"Well if you don't like them, which by the way I do, extra protein and
all, just wait till they float to the top of your coffee and then skim
them off."
"Here, let me show you." and I drop a teaspoon of sugar into my
coffee, the ant floats up, I skim him off in one swoop. "Because I am
not freakin throwing this sugar away, sugar scarce you know."

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