Amandala has confirmed that last month Bowen and Bowen Ltd. had made an effort to import 2,500 metric tons of refined white sugar from Guatemala. This would have dealt a heavy blow to our sugar industry, affecting thousands of farmers countrywide.

However, Cabinet disapproved their permit for importation days after they submitted their request. Jose Trejo, the Director of the Belize Bureau of Standards, today explained to Amandala that refined white sugar has 99.7 percent polarization, which refers to its improved color and texture and lack of insoluble matter, while local or plantation white sugar has a polarization rate of 99.5 percent.

The two are both used to make baked goods and carbonated drinks.

Trejo suspects that Bowen and Bowen Ltd. wanted the refined white sugar from Guatemala because it would be cheaper, and because of its polarization rate, and also because that sugar would last the whole year.

However, he explained that Cabinet blocked the request because local companies could provide the needed sugar. According to him, if Cabinet had approved the request, the country would have lost an estimated $3 million.

Our newspaper contacted William Neal, the Public Relations Officer at American Sugar Refinery (ASR)/ Belize Sugar Industry (BSI), but up to print time he has not returned our calls.

We also contacted the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Bowen and Bowen Ltd., Hilly Martinez, but our calls went directly to voicemail.

We also contacted the CEO at the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), Oscar Alonzo, but again, our calls went unanswered.

And so, with nowhere else to turn, our newspaper contacted cane farmer and the Deputy Leader of the People's United Party (PUP), Jose Abelardo Mai, who provided a brief comment on this matter.

According to Mai, Bowen and Bowen had reached an agreement with American Sugar Refinery (ASR) and Belize Sugar Industry (BSI). He explained that Bowen and Bowen would buy the sugar from ASR/BSI instead of importing from abroad.

Mai explained that Bowen and Bowen had been the largest consumer of sugar in Belize, but in recent years, they had begun to source sugar abroad. For example, they had sourced sugar from Brazil because it was cheaper and more refined than what was available in local markets.

According to him, in previous years Belize was unable to provide refined sugar until this year when ASR/BSI made a significant investment to improve Belize's technical capabilities so as to improve its sugar quality.

Mai informed that now, Bowen and Bowen Ltd. has no excuse to not buy sugar locally.