The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) on Monday issued a statement on the proposed sale of the Belize Sugar Industries. According to the BCCI, considerable reform is needed for the industry to survive and “the status quo is not an option.” The Honduras based Banco Atlantida has tabled a ninety million dollar proposal for a buyout of B.S.I. and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association has also indicated an interest in purchasing majority shares. But what is the most viable route for the industry? News Five posed that question to the BCCI’s Vice President of Industry, Jose Alpuche.
Jose Alpuche, Vice President of Industry, BCCI
“First and foremost we believe that the sugar industry definitely can become viable. It is experiencing some difficulties right now but it can be viable and really it should remain in private hands.”
“When you say it should remain in private hands, does that mean that you all are in favor of the Banco Atlantida proposal?”
“We’re in favor of any proposal that would come forward that, as I say, serve the industry right in setting in on a commercially viable footing. Banco Atlantida, being the most prominent at this point in time, the company that it appears the current owners are negotiating with. So we are in support of that indeed but it’s whichever proposal that comes forward that can put the industry on viable footing. I am not sure about cane farmer ownership as a group, I must say. I really believe that ownership of shares is a very difficult thing to deal with and I believe that if you will put your money into something like that, you should have direct ownership of it. We’ve had some difficulties, some experience within the existing ownership of the citrus industry, we certainly would not want to have that replicated in sugar. But as it relates to cane farmers individually owning, of course that would be a good thing. But really it’s up to the current owners to decide who they want to sell to. We’ve been at this for many years, we’ve known about the reforms coming to the industry from ’96 when the EU published its screen paper on reform with the ACP. And quite frankly I think all parties have failed to put the industry on the footing that it should be on. We have the resources available, let’s utilize it and let’s make it a viable industry but we cannot take the approach that the status quo will remain for anybody and I think we’ve seen that first with the investment from B.S.I. and now the financial difficulties being experienced by B.S.I. I think the farmers and the other stakeholders also have to realize that this is not the same game. We’ve got to adapt to what is the reality now. We’ve got to ensure that quality, that true competition enters into sugar and basically every other industry in Belize.”