ORANGE WALK–Today was set as the deadline for the ultimatum that the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) and it membership, at a meeting last Saturday, November 15, gave the Government-appointed industry regulator, known as the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB), to arbitrate the longstanding dispute between the cane producers and the sugar processors, Belize Sugar Industries (BSI)/American Sugar Refineries (ASR).
Since we understand that two of the members of the SICB are presently out of the country, a meeting could not be arranged, and therefore, the BSCFA has agreed to wait until November 25, which is the date that the SICB had first planned to hold its meeting.
Also of note is that today, the BSCFA executive met with Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Gaspar Vega, and while we have not been able to receive any official comment on the outcome of that meeting, we were told that Hon. Vega simply encouraged the BSCFA to return to the negotiating table with BSI/ASR — something BSI/ASR has been reluctant to do.
Today was also the date that BSI/ASR had set for cane farmers to individually sign its proposed contract which seeks to completely sidestep the BSCFA’s ongoing efforts to negotiate a revised commercial agreement on behalf of its over 5,500 members, which has been prolonged for almost two years now.
The factory owners however, have once again decided to put aside the date for the signing of their projected agreement since the company stated that it has been getting “sufficient” and “steady” feedback from farmers concerning the need for them (BSI/ASR) to factor in other farmers’ issues that relate to safety and security.
The next sugar cane crop season is slated to start within the first week of December, but at this time, it is anyone’s guess as to what will transpire within the next few days, as that time draws nearer; however, the reality is that BSI/ASR and the BSCFA remain in a deadlock and so far, we were told, no cañero has entered into any individual contractual agreement with the company.