The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) is currently suspended by the Fairtrade inspection and certification body, FLORCERT, after an audit revealed that a Minister of Government was delivering cane to the factory even though there are claims that he is not a registered cane farmer.
According to the chairman of the BSCFA Orange Walk branch, Alfredo Ortega, last Tuesday he received the suspension letter from FLOCERT.
In an interview with CTV3 on Tuesday, Ortega revealed that when auditors interviewed Eloy Escalante, a farmer who is registered with the BSCFA, “he personally said that he, for the past three years, was not delivering cane in his name and he was not planting and that it was another person delivering in his name and based on that, he personally gave the information, then when they made their analysis in regards to the audit report, then they took it into account and that is why they suspended the Association.”
Ortega also told CTV3 that, “The situation arises with Mr. Eloy Escalante being the farmer that has the license, but as he was no longer interested, then he got into an agreement with Minister Castro, and in which he was delivering the cane using that name, but it was an agreement that they had, but Mr. Castro was seeking to transfer the license in his name.”
When Amandala spoke to Ortega today, Thursday, he told us that the Sugar Cane Production Committee denied Castro’s transfer because the committee voted not to accept any new farmers except in the case where a farmer had died and his son or his wife intended to continue in the industry.
NEMO and Transport Minister Hon. Edmund Castro today confirmed to our newspaper that in 2012, he bought over Eloy Escalante’s quota and one year later, registered one of his sons as its administrator.
He also confirmed that this is the third year that he has been delivering cane to the factory after the transaction with Escalante.
The Minister deflected all blame for the BSCFA’s suspension and criticized the BSCFA for poorly keeping its books.
According to him, the BSCFA’s books reflected the names of persons who are no longer planting or delivering cane, and that is the real reason for the suspension.
One such person, Hon. Castro says, is Eloy Escalante. His name was not to have appeared on the books when the audit was done. According to Castro, it was his son’s name that was to have appeared instead.
Castro told our newspaper that during the same period of his transaction with Escalante, he brought in several of his colleagues into the sugar belt, and they have since received their licenses.
It is left to be seen if the audit will also reveal the names of those persons. However, in the meantime, BSCFA’s chairman has told our newspaper that the BSCFA voted to remove Eloy Escalante as a member.
In doing so, Ortega hopes that FLOCERT will remove the suspension in time for the start of the new crop next week.
Fairtrade is a system of trading which exists to protect farmers in developing countries competing with those from more developed countries.
It seeks to foster better prices for produce, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries. Through Fairtrade, our farmers can guarantee that their produce will be purchased and that they will receive technical support to improve their crops and productivity.