Features — 04 August 2015 — by Adele Ramos
Field assessment to determine  extent of un-harvested cane begins

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 3, 2015–Jose Novelo, chairman of the Sugar Cane Production Committee (SCPC), told Amandala today that the field verification exercise to determine the extent of un-harvested cane, the new acreage planted, as well as the “ratoon,” a word used in the industry for regrowth of harvested cane, is due to commence today and continue for the next two months or so, as they go field by field.

Over the past few weeks, the SCPC has been receiving reports from cañeros which will enable them to determine the exact acreage of stand-over cane. This figure, said Novelo, should be available to us on Wednesday, while a better estimate of the tonnage should be available after the field verification exercise.

Industry stakeholders had expressed concerns that although sugar production has hit a record high this year, roughly 80% of cañeros still have hundreds of tons of un-harvested cane, valued at tens of thousands of dollars, in their fields.

Two weeks ago, Novelo had advised us that they would commence their verification exercise to more accurately determine the extent of un-harvested cane.

The SCPC had projected that cane production this year would reach 1.45 million tons, and Novelo said that when deliveries were halted on Sunday, July 12, cane received by the factory at Belize Sugar Industries totaled about 1.186 million tons.

The ongoing assessment will help the industry plan for the next crop year, as well as to determine how much more sugarcane must be replanted by farmers and what management is needed in the field.

According to Novelo, the information may also affect the allocation of quotas, since, he said, there are some who are deemed cañeros who don’t really plant cane but who merely operate as brokers, and yet they get quotas to deliver. The verification exercise should help them “clean the system” of such brokers, he indicated.

We asked Novelo if dry weather conditions which have persisted of late would have any impact on the planting of sugar cane, and he said that while it may have delayed planting somewhat, it could all work out in their favor, since farmers plant both in June and September, and the SCPC is recommending that farmers plant 70% of their cane during the months of September to January/February, instead of the usual 30%, because shifting the bulk of the planting from June to September would actually yield better results.

Given the losses cañeros are facing due to the extent of undelivered cane, we asked Novelo whether any financial assistance is available to help cañeros through the coming months of preparation for the new crop. In reply, he told us that there should be some EU funds available through the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), which is usually available at a concessionary rate of around 8-9%.

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