BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 25, 2016–This year’s sugar crop is estimated at 1.7 million tons, well above the 1.3 million tons which the Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) expected to handle this season. Jessamyn Ramos, Information Officer at the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI), pointed to the production of a surplus this year, in her presentation at the 6th Annual Belize Esri User Conference, held at the Biltmore Plaza in Belize City.
While that surplus is good news, the bad news is that prices on the world market have plummeted, from $75 a ton last year to $45 a ton this year, Ramos said. This represents a fall of about 40%.
Furthermore, she said that the industry was notified in 2013 that in 2017, Belize will no longer have access to preferential markets which yield the best price for the export commodity. As a result, the industry has launched the Sugar Industry Management Information Systems (SIMIS), which aims to track production with the aim of maximizing outputs from the sector.
According to Ramos, there are 5,425 farmers registered in the system. The acreage under production is not 60,000, as they had estimated. Their assessments, using the GIS-based system provided to SIRDI by Total Business Solutions Limited, the local distributor for Esri, has enabled them to determine that there are 74,258.86 acres under production.
They are also using drones to determine the acreage left to harvest.
Fifty-four percent of the cane planted is of a Barbados variety; but they have learned that 19% of the cane is a variety which the industry had erroneously thought it was close to eradicating.
They have also been able to determine that 59% of sugar field workers are males and 41% are females. Most of them are above the age of 30, signalling the need to target the younger generation to ensure that the industry is sustained, Ramos said.