Every year there is some level of public outcry by cane farmers in respect to the deplorable state of sugar roads in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. And in recent years, the government has been allocating three hundred thousand dollars for each district to be used for the upgrading of the roads. But annually, cane farmers complain that little to no work has been down on the roads. So when news got out that the monies have been used to upgrade roads of lesser priority, the farmers of Orange Walk South, in particular, began venting their frustration to Area Representative, Jose Abelardo Mai. According to Mai, U.D.P. Area Representatives Gaspar Vega of Orange Walk North and Elodio Aragon Junior of Orange Walk East have contracted known U.D.P. supporters to upgrade roads in their constituencies. The problem, says Mai, is that the roads in his constituency are in greater need of attention compared to those in the north and east constituencies. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
Think about the sugar roads as the veins of the industry, a network of roads connecting hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar cane farmlands spread across the northern districts. The sugar roads are essentials but for thousands of small cane farmers, the deplorable conditions of some of these roads are not only frustrating but makes it difficult for them to deliver their cane to the factory. Orange Walk South Area Representative Jose Abelardo Mai says the cane farmers in his constituency have had enough.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Rep., Orange Walk South
“The farmers are appalled. They are appalled, stressed out and desperate, especially the truck owners. I don’t have a truck but my group has four trucks and you can hear the truck owners every day. The drivers are taking a beating on the road. And then the cost are excessive and then that bites into what should be their little profit. If they bust a tire, that’s it for them. They won’t recover that again. That is how bad it is. Trucks are turning over. It endangers the life of the drivers. You saw that video that was overturned. That truck was trying to go on the side not realizing that the culvert was also caved in on the side. Now that is an expense that the cane farmer will never recover.”
The government recently earmarked three hundred thousand dollars each for the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts for the upgrading of the sugar roads. But according to Mai, political prioritization took over the process as monies have been unfairly allocated.
Jose Abelardo Mai
“The monies are not being allocated equally to where it is more deserved. We have been following up with the three hundred thousand dollars for Orange Walk since the Prime Minister announced it in the House of Representatives and so far has not received no money. After we checked we found out that the honorable member for Orange Walk North and member for Orange Walk East, they have decided how they will spend this money. And we get nothing in Orange Walk South. Orange Walk South has two hundred thousand tons of cane. If you would include B.S.I.’s cane which is part of Orange Walk South you could say that we have almost twenty five thousand tons of cane which is almost like nineteen percent of the national production. We have seven hundred and nineteen cane farmers and we have thirty four sugar roads which is two hundred and sixty seven miles. So for the Elodio Aragon to say that public works had decided that the roads in Orange Walk South are good and the roads in his area are not good is foolishness.”
And now Mai is calling on the Minister of Agriculture to intervene and address this matter.
Jose Abelardo Mai
“Where is the Ministry of Agriculture in all of this? How can he sit in cabinet, he who was the biggest talk shop, and say nothing about this? He is a disgrace. Where is his C.E.O. when all of this is happening? The farmers are left out there by themselves. Where is Godwin Hulse, he who speaks so much, on this matter?”
The deplorable state of sugar roads have always been a problem for cane farmers and will continue to be a challenge unless the government invests more on addressing the natter, says Mai.
Jose Abelardo Mai
“What we see today on sugar roads is as of result of years and years of neglect. Last year again they said they would allocate certain amount of money but no works were done in Orange Walk south. The government has to allocate money. Just like they found money to pay B.T.L., they have to find money to pay the next guy that they want to pay from the airport; they have to find moneys for the sugar roads. And let it be spent where it is needed; make they stop greedy up the money. It is madness.”