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B.S.C.F.A Protests Against A.S.R./B.S.I

Mar 7, 2023

B.S.C.F.A Protests Against A.S.R./B.S.I

The ongoing dispute between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the American Sugar Refinery/Belize Sugar Industries culminated with a protest today in Belmopan under the scorching mid-morning sun. A.S.R/B.S.I was making a presentation to the Cabinet on its position and what it can and cannot afford to pay the B.S.C.F.A. for sugar cane. And outside, about a hundred members of the association, bearing placards demanding higher payments, walking around the market square and in front of the National Assembly. It was a quiet crowd, but their demands have been consistent over time: higher payments, access to the financial records, among others. We begin our newscast tonight with a report from Marion Ali.

Marion Ali, Reporting
A two-year-old profit-sharing dispute between the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and American Sugar Refinery/Belize Sugar Industries has led to a protest on Independence Plaza in Belmopan on Cabinet Tuesday. Chairman of the Committee of Management for the B.S.C.F.A., Alfredo Ortega told reporters that the negotiations have been fruitless.

Alfredo Ortega

Alfredo Ortega, Chairman, Committee of Management, B.S.C.F.A

“We went through a mediator and nothing came out, so the only thing that left is the commission of inquiry, and we have heard that B.S.I. is not supporting the commission of inquiry. So that is why we are here, because we want the commission of inquiry to be to be approved so that then they can come with information that is needed for a better agreement with B.S.I. We want a different commercial agreement, we have been looking forward to that. We got promises from before this party came into government that changes will be done. We’re expecting those changes to happen.”

The B.S.C.F.A’s gripe has been that under present profit-sharing conditions their take home has been dwindling consistently.

Alfredo Ortega

“We are asking changing from Net Strip Value to a Gross Revenue of 60/40 where we have seen, and it’s not, nothing that we invented. It’s something that we have seen has been working around the world and we believe that that is the way we need to go so that we can end with all those doubts that we had and also we can end out with all B.S.I. is putting above us, charging more and charging more and charging more. And when it comes to the division, it’s less for the farmers.”

Florencio Marin Sr., who had served for one year as an advisor to the Sugar Industry Control Board, was part of a small group from the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association. His tenure as a commissioned advisor expired at the end of February. Marin told the media that both parties have had audiences with Cabinet to present their respective positions.

Florencio Marin

Florencio Marin, Former Advisor, S.I.C.B.

“The government was requested to give an audience to the B.S.C.F.A and about two weeks ago the Cabinet extended to them full respect, received them in the Cabinet office and they were able to give their points of view to the Cabinet. The government, in an effort to be fair and square to all the parties, accepted a request from B.S.I./A.S.R to also give their perspective.”

Marin, told the media that in the capacity he served, he could only advise the parties, but the advice does not have to be taken.

Florencio Marin

“An advisor is not one that executes policy. An advisor advises. So the interested party can either take up the advice or just ignore it. It has no force of action like an executive post. It was not an executive post. I tried my best. We met with the chairman several times. We discussed the issues as I saw it and both of those exchanged views and we believe there were small improvements, no big deal to boast about, But the seed is planted, as I said to focus on increasing yields per acre. That will benefit the country, benefit the farmer, benefit the manufacturer in that they will be getting more cane for their mill.”

A handful of members from the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association also came out near Independence Hill, but interestingly, they were lending support to the government, the factory and the process of negotiation.

Vladimir Pook

Vladimir Pook, Chairman, Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association

“It is nothing different that we sign. It’s the same commercial agreement at the end of the day. Right? It’s just the way how we manage our affairs within the association that makes us different.”

Marion Ali

“Would you not also want to have a look at the records?”

Vladimir Pook

“Well, it’ll be interesting. Of course, but we already have how many years in the industry – nearly sixty years of existence in the industry. I, myself am very young, but I have here behind me, people that have been there, even in offices high as the government offices and our cane farmers know who have very experience in cane farming.”

Marion Ali

“In terms of the demands that the B.S.C.F.A has been clamoring for over, I think almost two years, including an agreement, including better prices and also access to the records, where do you all stand on that?”

Vladimir Pook

“Well, we respect our colleagues from the B.S.C.F.A. They have their own issues with their commercial agreement. We in the C.S.C.P.A., together with other colleagues from other associations, we have a valid commercial agreement.”

The A.S.R./B.S.I team finished its presentation to Cabinet this afternoon and we will try to get their position on the outcome of that meeting tomorrow. Marion Ali for News Five.