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SAVE THE SUGAR CANE INDUSTRY

LettersSAVE THE SUGAR CANE INDUSTRY

SALVEMOS LA INDUSTRIA AZUCARERA AHORA

Dear Editor,

It is with concern and urgency that I write to you to kindly ask that your publishing house see the importance to help our cane farmers by following through with the publishing of our Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA) approved Resolution at our AGM held 27th November to petition our Government to incorporate the following Clauses into our Sugar Industry Act (SIA):

  1. Sugar Industry Marketing Committee (SIMC) 
  2. The Default Mechanism

Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association
San Antonio Rd.
Orange Walk Town

27th November 2022

Chairman Committee of Management

Resolution

Dear Mr. Alfredo Ortega,

Kindly allow us to present this resolution on the BSCFA annual general meeting to be held on the 27th November at Escuela Secundaria Tecnica Mexico, San Roman village for the floor’s consideration and approval.

In view of the present long ongoing controversy surrounding the inconclusive negotiations for a commercial agreement between the B.S.C.F.A and B.S.I/A.S.R, it has become an urgent necessity to establish protective provisions or clauses in the Sugar Industry Act. We make a final call to G.O.B to place priority on our urgent needs as cane farmers to pass appropriate legislation to protect the interest of all the Cane Farmers and the good future of the sugarcane industry of Belize.

Considering that the contents documented of both the default mechanisms and the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee were delivered at a joint divisional director meeting of the BSCFA with the then minister responsible for the sugar industry, Hon. Gaspar Vega, held at the Sugar Industry Control Board conference room, on the 21st October 2013 where a verbal formal request was made to the UDP government to amend the SIA and place into law these two protective measures. The government refused because under the content of the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee it forbids BSI/ASR to continue to be the sole seller of all our sugars. an established Sugar Industry Marketing Committee which states in segments the following 15.(1) Establishment: There shall be and is hereby established for the purposes of this Act a Committee to be known as the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee (hereinafter referred to as the SIMC which shall, subject to the provisions of this act, be an autonomous committee, with the general objective of promoting the most marketing and sale of all sugar and its byproducts produced from sugar cane by manufacturers. 4(1): Subject to the provisions of this Act, the SIMC shall bear overall responsibility for all aspects of sugar marketing and sale, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, shall perform the following functions: 4(a) to conduct regular market surveys to review and determine the most lucrative local, regional and global markets for Belizean sugar and the most cost-effective methods to market and sell Belizean sugar, bagasse and any derivative of sugar cane both at home and abroad. Without this prohibition the UDP government was free to grant BSI/ASR the 10-year unrestricted right to sell alone all our sugars, and all tax exemptions. Time to stop corruption.

NOW, be it resolved:

The introduction of the Default Mechanism into law, should become the legal instrument to compel the Miller and Cane Farmer to commence, to negotiate and conclude a beneficial agreement between both parties. The Default Mechanism was introduced at an earlier date but was finally analysed and debated by the Task Force Members on October 14th 2010 at the Sugar Industry Control Board conference room. The full support to this valuable instrument is recorded in the minutes of that meeting according to 4.1.8. It reads as follows: It was agreed on payment based on quality and it was also agreed that a Default Mechanism be put in place whereby the authority (proposed new name SICB) comes to mediate and find a solution in the event that the entities cannot reach to an agreement prior to the commencement of Crop.

Following 4.1.9 reads as follows: Mr. Waight requested that all members make a submission to the chairman in regards to the default mechanism by 22nd October, 2010. I submitted my submission on 18th October, 2010.

This default mechanism, when put in the act, shall be a permanent binding clause that the board (SICB) can legally enforce its compliance when requested by a manufacturer or by any cane farmer’s association within a reasonable time frame of only 105 working days. 45 days only to commence negotiations, 30 days only for mediation, 30 days only for arbritation.

The Task Force members fully dedicated ourselves to fulfil the request given to the task force and in less than ten months of work, we managed to conclude four drafts of recommendations and started a fifth draft. During this time, the former PM requested the Task Force Chairman to present him with the recommendations proposed so far. When the PM reviewed the recommendations, he informed the Task Force Chairman and the SICB Chairman, his total disagreement with most of the said recommendations and stated he was not willing to endorse them into law. Therefore, the Task Force decided not to continue the revision on the SIA because they considered it to be a waste of time and concluded to discontinue our participation on the review of the SIA of 2001. All these good recommendations are now idling on the shelves of the Ministry of Agriculture and the SICB. As a former member of the 2010 task force on the review of the SIA, I got the support and approval of two key recommendations to be made law in the SIA in conformity with recommendation (b) by the experts, that states should contain clauses of a regulatory nature to enhance the economic and financial feasibility of the industry. One of the two key elements urgently needed to be made law in the SIA is the establishment of a Default Mechanism. Whenever this default mechanism is made into law it will put in equal footing the northern Belize Cane Farmers Associations with BSI/ASR the manufacturers to conclude in a reasonable time frame a Commercial Agreement beneficial to both parties.

The second key clause that will also enhance the economic and financial feasibility of the industry, is the establishment of the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee in law. It will ensure accountability in all sugar sales, local, regional and international markets, including the sale of our Belizean baggash. It will further ensure joint parternship with the BSCFA and other associations in the sales of our sugars. This joint partnership in the sales of our sugars will forbid the renewal of the present 10 years of unrestricted right by BSI/ASR to sell alone all our sugars granted by the past UDP government. We cannot allow the renewal of any future or present government to water down our sacred rights as hardworking northern caneros. If we are denied these rights by the Government it will follow the steps of the past UDP government and will stand in favour of the transnational BSI/ASR granting an eternal unrestricted right to BSI/ASR.

We the northern caneros do declare today and tomorrow this is an act of high treason. Copies of this Default Mechanism and the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee will be provided in a letter addressed to the relevant authority. The content of the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee is the legal wording of the Solicitor General. We the members of the BSCFA gather here today to request the government to intervene on our behalf, to amend with due diligence the SIA and to insert these two recommendations to become with immediate effect. It is of immediate and pressing importance for the BSCFA and the survival of the sugar industry and the good future for all cane farmers of northern Belize. We invite the government to listen to us cane farmers and to act in good faith for us. The Government has intentionally delayed the urgent amendments to include two vital clauses in the SIA, (1) the Default Mechanism, (2) the Sugar Industry Marketing Committee, but has passed hundreds of amendments in other laws, including the passage of the Marijuana Bill to be agreed or rejected in a referendum. We ask the question: Is the Marijuana Bill more important than the Sugar Cane Industry, where thousands and thousands of people depend on it for their livelihood? How can the Marijuana Bill be superior where not one hundred people depend on it for their livelihood? This government must reverse its actions and do the right thing for the northern caneros.

For too many long years, the clamouring and pleas of the BSCFA have been ignored; our requests have been kept in deaf ears by the past government to enact these essential two protective clauses in the SIA. Therefore, we are now requesting this new government not to forget to intervene on our behalf, not to delay, not to ignore but to keenly listen to our call, our plight, listen to our concerns, our needs and to serve expeditiously as the true servants of the people with our urgent requests.

In view that there is a locked door between the BSCFA and BSI/ASR that needs to be opened, and this default mechanism is the key to unlock the door to finalize a commercial agreement between the BSCFA and BSI/ASR. We call Government to pass with urgency this Default Mechanism and the strengthening of the Board power to conclude this controversy that is hurting the interest of all sugar cane farmers through a statutory instrument.

Hoping for a prompt and positive response on behalf of our government within two weeks’ time.

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