Features — 13 June 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Green Tropics evicts farmers

The company says it will not compensate nearly 30 farmers for crop destruction

Green Tropics, a member of the Santander Group of companies from Spain, with an arm in neighboring Guatemala, is again at the center of controversy after it issued eviction notes dated Monday, June 9, 2014, to a cooperative of approximately 30 farmers who live near the Valley of Peace community, and who are said to supply vegetables to both the Belize and Cayo Districts.

The company proceeded to issue a public announcement in local newspapers this week, asserting that it will not pay those farmers the estimated losses – reported at $500,000 – which occurred after its contractors flew over the farms and sprayed roundup, damaging the foliage of vast acreages of cabbage and other vegetables.

“The company denies the claim that 100% of the crops were destroyed and also …the assertion of the quantum of charges,” Green Tropics said.

The company goes on to say that it will not pay the alleged compensation for the damages claimed by the farmers, since all the crop spraying occurred over its land.

The company claims that it wants the farmers to vacate the premises by Thursday, July 15, 2014, and indicated that Monday’s notice was the final one – threatening both criminal and civil suits against the farmers if they don’t vacate.

While the company’s release speaks of plans to establish a sugar factory and mill in Cayo which could supply 21 megawatts of power to the national grid, thereby reducing reliance on supplies from Mexico, there are concerns that the eviction of the farmers could lead to shortages in vegetable supplies on the local market.

Green Tropics said that it has instructed its attorney, Mikhail Arguelles, to commence eviction proceedings for trespass against the farmers whom they described as squatters.

One source tells us that some of the farmers have been occupying the land for decades before Green Tropics acquired it from an Ashcroft company.

KREM News reports, however, that the farmers’ attorney, Andrew Marshalleck, is saying they will fight in court. Marshalleck says the statute of limitations has expired in this particular case, since the farmers have been squatting on the said land for longer than 12 years.

Green Tropics Limited is the holding company for Santander Farms and Santander Mills.

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