BELIZE CITY, Mon. Aug. 30, 2021– Last week, the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) issued a press release denouncing what they call “unfounded statements” that were made in an open letter written by Mac Mclachlan, Vice President of International Affairs at Belize Sugar Industries (BSI)/ASR group. The open letter was a response to the association’s notification of termination of the commercial agreement with the millers, BSI, and its call for the renegotiation of a new agreement between the sugar cane farmers and the miller.
BSI has indicated that a renegotiation at this time would negatively impact the industry, which is already facing low international commodity prices, but BSCFA invoked a provision in the agreement which allows them to inform BSI that they are terminating the agreement three months before the expiration date in hopes of nudging a renegotiation.
In the open letter, however, McLachlan stated, “BSI is not prepared to reopen the key terms of the commercial agreement.”
A statement released by the BSCFA says, “May we remind Mr. McLachlan and ASR/BSI, that we are simply exercising our right to negotiate a new commercial agreement for the sale of our sugar cane to any sugar manufacturer, and that their attitude and behavior cannot intimidate us. “
The current agreement is set to expire on January 19, 2022, and the BSCFA is calling BSI to the table to enter into renegotiations of a new deal. The miller, however, feels that the current contract is a good fit for the industry, and a renegotiation process, which would likely continue for a considerable period of time, could cause a delay in the start of the delivery of the crop, which could result in losses of revenue in the millions.
McLachlan’s open letter, since removed from social media, accuses the association of providing misleading information to its members and says that the move to notify BSI to terminate the current deal is threatening to disrupt the industry and create turmoil.
The association has said that it finds those statements made by McLachlan to be appalling — and has even referred to his comments as a “shameless act of immoral coercion.”
In the open letter, McLachlan states, “BSCFA farmers do not have a contract to deliver cane to BSI next crop, and without a commercial agreement BSCFA farmers now face delivery uncertainties.”
The release from the BSCFA, in reference to that comment, states, “Mr. McLachlan is himself already seeking to create disruption and turmoil in the industry and among BSCFA members with this statement, as financial institutions and other service agencies can wrongly interpret this statement and deny BSCFA members of essential financial and other services for their cane operations and personal needs.”
For now, the two entities are at a deadlock, with no indication if BSI will fold and go back to the negotiation table or if the association will retract its notification of termination of the current agreement.
BSI has said that they are willing to look into some amendments, but the core terms of the agreement would have to remain unchanged.