Currently, the ball is in B.S.I.’s court. What they do with it will have great impact on the industry in days to come. Experience has shown that cane-farmers are perhaps the most militant and determined protesters. They haven’t had to demonstrate that militancy so far because the rains and the deteriorated sugar roads have made delivery of sugar-cane impossible anyway. According to B.S.I., the factory would have been ready for operation today, but that’s not going to happen. The B.S.C.F.A. says the condition of the roads is a major challenge facing farmers right now. Millions of dollars have been allocated by the E.U. to sugar roads over the past few years, but each season the farmers are faced with the same problem. C.E.O. of B.S.C.F.A., Oscar Alonzo, says that because the E.U. money is handled by politicians, it may not always go where it should.
Oscar Alonzo, C.E.O., BSCFA
“The major challenge right now is the infrastructure…the roads. The roads are in a very deplorable state, and especially with the rains. It’s true that there have been funds under the EU Accompanying Measures for Sugar and we have to try to see how we can improve the main arteries, but I think now we’re having problems with the roads that feed into the sugar cane. I think this is one thing we have to see this coming year if we can have government assist more. We will put some part also. I think some of our branches have some equipment that can begin to deal with the problem, but that will be a major problem that we have to overcome.”
Alfredo Ortega, Vice-Chairman, Committee of Management, BSCFA
“That is the government’s side to do and the DPM has said that it’s a countrywide problem, it’s not only the north. It’s countrywide but they are seeing priorities at this point in time…the villages and what’s not. So he said that if the crop is not prepared to start as planned they will be working in the villages and from there they will see how best they can alleviate the situation in the sugar roads.”
“Road repair is quite an expensive thing, and when you touch it you have to think about drainage sometimes and drainage is quite an expensive thing. We have requested over the past years that government give the money to the association and let us manage the repair of the roads. What we have seen is that the money has been provided to the Ministry of Works but it is the political representatives sometimes that have more control of it. We have asked to be involved so we can see that the roads that are really priorities can be dealt with. We can’t fix every road…that’s impossible. But at least what we fix we fix properly, and so every year we keep improving the network of roads that don’t require yearly repair.”
If mother nature provides much needed support, within two weeks the farmers should be able to deliver cane to B.S.I. But if an agreement is not reached in the next week, they won’t. And that’s when things should start getting very interesting. News Five will keep you updated on developments.
In another development, the Belize Sugar Industries today informed that it is convening a press conference Tuesday morning. We expect to get their version as to why the farmers are not entitled to any revenue sharing in the sale of bagasse for the generation of electricity.