Features — 21 January 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

Today was scheduled to be the start date for the much delayed 2013/2014 sugar crop season; however, Amandala understands that deliveries of cane have been deferred for another four days.

That is based on a decision that was made by Government and the relevant stakeholders of the sugar industry at a meeting that was held last Friday, January 17, regarding the impassable conditions of the sugar roads.

Belize Sugar Industries (BSI), the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Works agreed that deliveries would not be able to start until this Friday, January 24, 2014 because work on the very critical sugar roads has just begun, and more time would be needed to complete at least 50-75% of the road works. Contracts for road works have been signed; however, the works on the sugar roads – which are in a very bad condition – have reportedly been very slow, and therefore all parties came to the conclusion that those roads would not have been passable by 10:00 a.m. this morning when it was agreed that the season would have gotten underway.

The setback – a postponement that is occurring at a time when the crop is already almost two months past its traditional start date – stems from the reluctance on the part of Government to repair the sugar roads unless a date for the beginning of the crop season was set.

Last Monday, January 13, following the signing of an interim agreement between BSI and the BSCFA, it was decided that the crop season would begin at the start of this week; then it was decided on Friday that more time would be needed.

Cane farmers are also hoping for good weather during this week, which would enhance the quality of the cane.

In the meantime, experts estimate that about 3 million dollars in production revenues is being forfeited for every week that the season has been delayed, which amounts to nearly 30 million dollars in lost revenue since November of 2013.

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