Earlier you heard about the economic downturn, and now up north there the start of the 2019 sugar crop has been postponed until mid-January 2020 and it is expected that the delay will result in millions of dollars in losses to the country. The impact of the drought continues to affect the agro-productive sector, including the sugar industry, one of several pillars of Belize’s economy. All things considered, it is estimated that there will be a reduction of three hundred thousand tons of sugarcane milled in the upcoming season. While a date for the actual start of the crop is yet to be determined, BSI’s manager for Cane Farmers Relations, Olivia Avilez, says that at a subsequent meeting on January third, it will be decided when the season commences.
On the Phone: Olivia Avilez, Manager, Cane Farmers Relations, B.S.I.
“On November twentieth, we met with the stakeholders, especially the farming association to discuss a possible crop start date and during that meeting we were able to determine really that we were actually unable to start a crop in the usual time that we start which is usually the first or the second week in December, mainly for the reasons of the drought impact on the cane that was harvested last December and also due to pest damage on that production. So essentially we are looking at a reduced production budget or production estimate for the upcoming crop. We had previously projected around 1.3 million tons of cane, similarly to what was milled in the 2019 crop season, however, the SCPC is now indicating a one million production estimate and therefore that’s under three hundred thousand tons of cane. The three hundred thousand tons of cane is essentially the cane that was cut in December 2018 and then partly in January 2019. Those are the cane that have been affected.”
“Have you guys been able to, perhaps, set a future date as to when the crop will commence?”
On the Phone: Olivia Avilez
“The exact date will be discussed in an upcoming meeting on January third. We agreed we would reconvene to discuss the exact start date, but we are estimating mid-January could be a possible, you know, that week of mid-January we could determine an exact date for the start.”
“What impact, if any, does this have on the industry, in terms of either losses or setbacks?”
On the Phone: Olivia Avilez
“Well this will have an impact on the entire country I think. The importance of the sugar industry, as you know, is one of the major industries in Belize and in the north, fifteen percent of the population depends on sugar. So any drop in production, any drop in the amount of sugar production exported and sold is impacted and trickles down right down to the tacos vendor on the street corner. So in terms of impact we are looking at a thirty percent decrease throughout, so a thirty percent decrease in cane, thirty percent decrease in sugar production income and already that is having an impact on the cane price that we issued to cane farmers in early November. So definitely it trickles down right to the tacos vendor, as I said.”