ORANGE WALK–This past July, FLO-CERT, the inspection and certification body that oversees compliance with Fair-Trade standards in more than 70 countries, placed the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) on a 6-month probation based on a spot check audit that revealed several non-compliances within the association, and yesterday, when Amandala spoke to the Chief Executive Officer of the BSCFA, Oscar Alonzo, he told us that the association is taking steps to remedy the situation in time for the next audit at the start of next month.
He conceded that the BSCFA’s re-admission into FLO-CERT’s good books is critical to the unimpeded progress of the sugar industry.
“We are in the process of implementing remedial measures. At the moment, we have a representative assisting us with this issue. The main issue has to do with child labor, and child labor not only happens in the sugar industry, but in all industries and I think it’s an issue that we have to deal with collectively, so we are seeing how we can embark on a proactive approach in relation to this, bearing in mind that we need to take a rights-based approach in regards to the protection of children and their welfare, but it’s a point where we need to keep that certain criteria because it involves issues of development and quality that are critical if the industry is going to progress and prosper”, Alonzo said.
He explained that the association is preparing data in order to address the matter because they believe that young people also need to be engaged with the processes of the industry, since they will be the generation that will inherit the sugarcane farming tradition in years to come.
Flo-Cert is in charge of auditing the BSCFA’s books to ensure that there is proper accountability. It is an oversight body connected to Fair-Trade, which allocates the premium of $60 dollars per ton of sugarcane that is responsibly harvested from developing countries.
We understand that since this Monday, November 3, members of the BSCFA have been attending training workshops on child labor with Fair-Trade representatives and consultants in hopes of launching a pilot project in the two divisions where child labor was identified.
While the association continues in its efforts to correct FLO-CERT’s non-compliances that were identified earlier in the year, its efforts are now being carried out under a new administrative team following the election of a new Committee of Management (CoM) which was voted into office last Thursday, October 30.
The committee, which will serve for the term November 1, 2014 to October 31, 2015, will be chaired by Ezekiel Cansino, the former chairman of the BSCFA’s Corozal branch, who will be assisted by vice chairman Giovanni Loria; secretary, Esteban Villanueva; treasurer, Eledino Escarraga; and counselors Ramon Aban and Marciano Novelo, the new chairmen for the Corozal and Orange Walk main branches respectively.
While the popular advocate and former committee chair, Alfredo Ortega, is now the secretary of the Orange Walk branch, the chairman of the new panel promised to pursue the mandates and best interests of the farmers with the same vigor exhibited by the previous committee, especially as it relates to the negotiation with BSI/ASR on revenue-sharing for bagasse.
In related news, next Monday, November 10, the cañeros will receive the third and final payment for the 2013/2014 sugarcane crop from the millers, and Cansino told us that the farmers were paid an average of $67.52 per ton of cane, which goes on record as the highest of the three installments since the first payment averaged $43.04 per ton and the second was the lowest at around $15 per ton, but of course, it must be noted that the payments vary according to cane quality.