ORANGE WALK DISTRICT, Thurs. Jan. 7, 2021– Belize’s sugar industry had to put production on pause due to unfavorable weather conditions. On Monday, stakeholders made a decision to discontinue harvesting and distribution to the B.S.I. factory in Tower Hill. This will have a direct effect on milling, as the factory requires approximately five thousand tons of cane to be processed daily in order to operate efficiently.
Over recent weeks, an estimated one thousand cane farmers have been finding it difficult or impossible to harvest cane in their fields, which have become soggy or inundated due to extensive rainfall that has fallen in northern Belize. In cases where cane is being harvested, there has been a direct negative impact on the quality of the harvest, which has placed further limits on the cane farmers’ and the BSI’s quota.
Prior to the decision to halt production, roughly eight thousand tons of cane was expected to be burned and transported to the factory; thereafter the suspension of cane burning would ensue. According to the Chairman of the SICB, the stakeholders were scheduled to have a follow-up meeting on Thursday evening to determine when production would resume.
For the industry to recover and the factory to run efficiently, farmers would have to produce over forty- eight-thousand tons of cane compared to the thirty-four-thousand tons that have been delivered since the start of the new season.
The Vice President of the B.S.I., Mac McLachlan, gave a detailed outline of the industry’s shortfall during its first eight days of production during a press conference with local media:
“Since we started this crop, for a whole range of different reasons we’ve been unable to get to that point. For example, in the first eight days of the crop, that five and half thousand tons operational requirement should have been forty-four thousand tons of cane, but we have only received thirty-four thousand six hundred tons of cane. The actual cane requirement that we had called up, which is higher than the operation bottom line, was about forty eight thousand seven hundred tons, and again we only received thirty four thousand six hundred. Now there comes a point where that leads to a number of problems. One, the mill has to keep stopping and starting because it cannot just handle the low throughput. Second point, again linked to the weather and also linked to coordination of deliveries. There have been certain amounts of impurities coming in with the cane increasing swell as it rains more mud and other things that the mill needs to manage in addition to just the cane supply. Finally, the other issue is that the end of the process bagasse is left behind and is used to basically keep the boilers burning, and you need to kind of have a ratio of that to manage the crop as you move forward,” he said.
The silver lining according to McLachlan is that the cane has not been lost; it has simply not been grounded as yet, meaning the amount of sugar projected to be produced will not be affected. The real issue lies in how long it will take to produce the necessary amount of sugar during the upcoming months.