BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Apr. 22, 2021– After the Cabinet met last week, a Cabinet brief was released to announce that the Santander Group had received authorization to purchase 50,000 tons of sugarcane being produced by farmers in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. The decision was reportedly made to enable farmers to make income by selling cane that would have otherwise gone to waste in their cane fields.
The CEO of the Ministry of Agriculture, Servulo Baeza, spoke with the media following the announcement to shed some light on the Cabinet’s decision and on the process that will ensue. According to Baeza, the Sugar Industry Control Board will be meeting on Tuesday to determine how the plan will be carried out. Stakeholders from the Santander group are also expected to conduct field visits, during which they will determine what can be harvested and consult with the farmers, who ultimately have the option to sell to Santander or to continue their operations exclusively through the Belize Sugar Industry (BSI).
When asked about the type of profit that the farmers stand to make, should they opt to work with the Santander group, CEO Baeza explained, “Because of the different distances, we did a study between both Orange Walk and Corozal, because the distances, so obviously there is a difference of price in transportation. All the major issues here of cost would be the transportation of the sugar cane from Corozal and Orange Walk to the Mill. So, the average we would say is between $15 and $17 that will remain when you remove the harvesting and transportations costs. Farmers in Orange Walk will be looking at about $15 to $17 they will be staying with, and then in Corozal we will be looking at $10 to $12 they will be staying with per ton of cane.”
The option of selling surplus cane to the Santander groups is a viable one, said the CEO, because farmers incur costs if they are left with unharvested cane in their fields. If the farmers decide to sell their cane via this medium, however, they not only will avoid the expense incurred to “bushhog” their fields, but can also make a profit from the sales. Baeza also shared that the Ministry estimates that over 100,000 tons of cane will be classified as “standover,” which is too large an amount to be processed by the Santander Mills. Nevertheless, he thanked the group for their cooperation in volunteering to process 50,000 tons.
When asked how payment would be issued to the farmers, CEO Baeza replied, “The Sugar Industry Control Board through the different associations would have to work out the same details and financial transactions as what is done right now, because most farmers are indebted. And the banks, the DFC, whatever financial institutions will want to collect once the cane is delivered. So, we have to ensure also that these commitments are met. So whatever payment is done will have to be going to the financial institutions so that the farmers can cover their loans and so forth.”