• Jose A. Sanchez

A Question On Sugar

Original posted on January 11, 2015.


Sunday Commentary

A cane farmer, Lucilio Teck has applied to the courts to have a mandamus order to force the "sugar board" to open the season. Prime Minister Barrow has said that the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) cannot force Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) or American Sugar Refineries (ASR) to accept crop for harvesting without an agreement.

The P.M. has said " it is Government’s unalterable conclusion that it is impossible…impossible, to compel B.S.I. to accept cane deliveries and mill and market cane against its will."

The Government via Deputy Solicitor General Nigel Hawk, Barrow and Williams for SICB and Youngs Law Firm for BSI/ASR are all fighting Lucilio Teck and his attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd in court to quash this potential writ of Mandamus. If the government is 100 percent sure that the SICB, a government body is powerless and the cane farmers are also being misled, why not let the Sugar Industry Control Board ceremoniously open the season for harvesting? This would accomplish 3 things:

  1. It would show the farmers that the government is on their side by not fighting them in court (a great political strategy).

  2. The Government would embarrass its greatest foe, Audrey Matura Shepherd who is heralded as farmer's friend by people close to the soil. Because this would prove that she was wrong regarding powers of the SICB to force the factory to accept cane.

  3. The negotiations could conclude and the season would start.

The mandamus will be heard on February 23rd and a decision could take place by the end of the season. It is likely farmers will either protest or give into the powers of the industry this week.

Preferential prices for cane in Europe ends in the next few years. Perhaps farmers don't want to be bound by an agreement that would stop bagasse negotiations until European Union preferential arrangements are decimated in 2017.

Nonetheless the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association has wrongfully dispersed Fair Trade funds to farmers which were meant to develop the capacity of farmers. Fair Trade has already written regarding the possible departure of the BSCFA from its arrangements. The nephew of the Deputy Prime Minister is attempting to corral farmers to create a new body to sign the current BSI/ASR agreement. The danger now is the possible creation of farmers associations that will be lead by cronies rather than leaders, another potential division of Belize on political lines. What we need are united cane farmers. The PUP and the UDP should try to work together with farmers, united for the future of the north of Belize.

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