July 05, 2011

The controversy continues in the Citrus Industry as a special general meeting for the Citrus Growers’ Association has been requested by farmers. The requisition is being called for the removal of the Committee of Management of the CGA. Yesterday the CGA issued a release acknowledging the receipt of the requisition and CEO Henry Anderson says they are seeking legal advice on the best way to address the request. He adds however, that the requisition is not being made by growers who are members of the CGA, but is being made instead by members of Belize Citrus Mutual.

Henry Anderson – CEO, CGA
“We heard on the radio it being said that there is a meeting for July 9, there is no meeting for July 9. A request was made for a meeting. Essentially what everybody needs to understand that the people behind making the request are essentially people from the Belize Citrus Mutual. So you are having a situation where over a year ago, going on two years, several people left the CGA to go and start their own association known as the Belize Citrus Mutual; essentially to remove away the membership from the CGA, to reduce the membership fees paid to the CGA in an effort to kill it off. It is some of these same individuals who have gone around to growers and several of the growers or quite a few growers who are on the list, signed off to requisition the meeting have come forth to take their names off the list. The growers were never allowed to read the paper, they just signed and initialled at the bottom of the paper and that was what was sent in. When they were talking with other growers who refused to sign then they became aware that listen what this thing is calling for it is calling for the removal of the Committee of Management of the CGA. Parallel to all this, we have Mr. William Bowman calling staff of CGA telling them that when he and his group take back over the CGA their jobs are safe so this is coming straight from the Citrus Mutual, this is where this is coming from.”

This morning, Dwight Montero, responded to the release issued by the CGA. He says the requisition was handed to the CGA on June 24th to cast a vote of no confidence against the present Committee of Management.

Dwight Montero – Citrus grower
“There are growers who are presently members of the CGA that came together and looked at the present situation in the industry and have realized that they have lost confidence in the Association to the point where the membership in the Association represents only 35 to 40% of the total production in the industry. What this does is affect the cash flow into the Citrus Growers Association. All the big and medium growers have resigned from the Association and if these growers does not start to pay back into the Association what will happen there will be absolutely no funds in the Association to on lend to small growers and this is one of the main reason why a lot of these small growers have decided that they need to change the Board of Directors and put a board of directors that can work for all the growers in the industry. These big players would like to pay back into the industry but not with that current board of directors that is running the affairs of the association right now and so this is a serious financial implication to the small growers. We are hoping that they would respect the request of the growers and call this special meeting, once you have 15 people on board or 15 people signing or requestioning for a special meeting that should be granted by the Association.”

Anderson says the situation continues to hinder the growers and the industry on a whole.

Henry Anderson – CEO, CGA
“So the scenario as you have it now, these guys are trying to come back to remove the Committee of Management, remove the ICL Board; ICL is the subsidiary of CGA that owns the 51% share in CPBL and then put new people on the CPBL Board in an effort to then make all the legal cases that are hanging over the head of I guess Dr. Canton in one way and Banks Holdings in another sense, for those to go away. You may know that Banks Holdings brought a claim against ICL when it was trying to prevent the CPBL meeting that was held December last year; recently ICL went to court to get the court to declare on an interim basis that Dr. Canton was removed. The court said no it will not declare in an interim way, what it would do it would fast track the substantive matter. That matter, banks Holdings have now filed their claim, the ICL has filed its response to that and has also filed a counter claim to deal with the breach of the investment agreement by Banks Holdings Limited when it refused ICL its right under the investment agreement to remove Michael Dunker, Frank Redmond and Dr. Henry Canton off the CPBL board and for damages thereto. So the Committee of Management is seeing all of this as a way to try to come in through the back door and to gain control of the CGA with a view to undo these things because they have very serious repercussions for the people who are doing them.”

Dalila Ical - Reporter
How does this affect the industry at the moment?

Henry Anderson – CEO, CGA
“Well essentially it has a big effect because when you look at the most important thing affecting this industry right now is the HLB disease and it is something that this Committee of Management has been trying to push very hard to get an industry wide approach to it and the Belize Citrus Mutual has been there trying to block it and the only rationale that we can see for that is because CGA has an entity something called the Citrus Research and Education Institute which is the entity that does a lot of the plant health interventions for citrus, this is the entity that discovered citrus greening in Belize and every step of the way this group of people have blocked and said they will not do this and to date no decision has been made on how to deal with this.”

Montero says approximately thirty growers have signed on the requisition. He further refutes the accusations of having misled the growers.

Dwight Montero – Citrus grower
“I did not at anytime mislead nor deceive growers in signing that requisition. Growers who had signed that requisition and the attached resolution did so knowing fully what that requisition contained. Not only did they sign the requisition but they also initialled on each page of the resolution that they knew and agreed to what was contained in that requisition. It was explained to them exactly what the requisition contained and they agreed because they are fed up with the current management of the CGA and said this is the time to call a special meeting and do a vote of no confidence against that board and that was their request because they saw it and they requested that they want to that. What I can tell you is that there are employees from the CGA along with other people going around trying to get growers to revoke their signature from off the requisition for the special meeting.”

According to Anderson, one of the growers who is reported to have withdrawn his signature was threatened, but Montero denies the allegation. Late this afternoon, Chairman of Belize Citrus Mutual, Ernest Raymond contacted our studio to clarify that the association is in no way blocking the progress of the efforts to address citrus greening. Raymond says that Belize Citrus Mutual has participated in several meetings called by the task force to address the control of citrus greening and is even willing to contribute to obtaining funds necessary to finance these efforts.

Live and let live