While the citrus industry is in crisis, up north the sugar industry is rebounding. ASR/B.S.I. has been attempting to get locally produced sugar into the tightly controlled CARICOM market. Now, the regional market is importing sugar from other regions to satisfy consumption needs, but getting Belize’s white sugar has been a huge challenge for years. According to ASR’s Mac MacLauchlan, there is hope that a breakthrough may be on the horizon. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Regional policymakers from the sugar industry, as well as manufacturers and government officials met in Belize City on October second to discuss the future of the Caribbean sugar industry.  The meeting touched on matters relating to trade, production and product development; including technical challenges in using CARICOM direct consumption sugars in manufacturing processes.  Director of Belize Sugar Industries Limited, Mac MacLauchlan attended that meeting of stakeholders and provided a perspective on what it means for the Caribbean Community.

Mac MacLauchlan, VP International Relations, ASR

“For the last two and a half years, we have been taking this discussion about how can we better utilize CARICOM products and, you know, CARICOM produced things in the region.  So what tends to happen in CARICOM because of a historical journey that we’ve been on where sugar use to be exported, of a market of about three hundred thousand tons of sugar demand in CARICOM, around about two hundred thousand tons is imported from outside of the region, generally in the form of reformed white sugar, even though producers still produce around four hundred and fifty and five hundred thousand tons of sugar.  It doesn’t seem to make sense and it doesn’t stack up because why not use CARICOM sugar in CARICOM production?”

The Council on Trade and Economic Development, COTED, mandated that the meeting be held in which the findings of an independent study indicate that plantation white sugar can be and is being used across the industrial food and beverage sectors, regionally and internationally.

Mac MacLauchlan

“We have had a number of COTED meetings on this issue in the last couple of years and we have followed a process and the process was basically established to look at the uses of the sugar that we produce here.  And a study was called for and paid for by the Caribbean Development Bank to look at the substitutability of the mill white, the plantation white sugar that we produce in the region and the refined white sugar that’s being brought in from outside the region to see whether there is any way in which this sugar could be substituted by CARICOM sugar.  The report that was studied at the COTED agriculture meeting two weeks ago came up with the analysis that mill white sugars and even direct consumption brown sugar are used extensively for all manufacturing around the world and including here in Belize.”

The issue of Common External Tariffs is also central to the sugar market in the region, considering investments that have been made across the Caribbean.

Mac MacLauchlan

“For sugar producers to invest a lot in upping their product, in making sure that their product is the right product for industrial users of sugar there needs to be some certain on the Common External Tariffs for that investment.  So what the outcome of COTED was that the CET should be fully applied on refined white sugar, provided that the regional producers of sugar could meet the quality and quantity demanded by industrial users.  And that, in many senses, is a halfway house to where we need to get to in the future.  It gives sugar producers an incentive to invest in the right kind of quality product, have the conversations with industrial users to ensure that we are matching the demand with the supply.”

The findings of the report will be carried forward to the upcoming fiftieth meeting of COTED next month and will inform a decision on proposed changes to CARICOM’s tariff policy.

Channel 5