By Benjamin Flowers
Cane farmers of the Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association have passed a resolution instructing that the association withdraw $2.5 million from its FairTrade fund for distribution to canefarmers for Christmas spending.
The motion, which received widespread support from the canefarmers present at Sunday’s meeting, stipulates that the money is to be shared equally between all the farmers.
Directors of the BSCFA say they have some 5,500 members, which works out to about $454 for each canefarmer.
Directors of the Belize Cane farmers Association advised assembled canefarmers at their meeting in Corozal on Sunday, that such a move is against Fair-Trade regulations.
Fair Trade is an organized social movement whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions to promote sustainability.
Fair Trade advocates the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as higher social and environmental standards. The motion was approved by the majority of the assembly.
Fair Trade provides financial help to the Belize Cane Farmers, estimated to be several million dollars a year, but the money is to be used strictly for development and improvement of the industry.
BCFA Chairman of the Committee of manage-ment, Ezekiel Cansino, expressed doubts about the wisdom of such a move.
“I am very concerned about that because knowing the standards of Fair-Trade, there might be some repercussions for us.
“But the general assembly voted for that and we will comply”” he conceded, “even though we may have some problems with Fair-Trade.”
BCFA Vice Chairman Alfredo Ortega agreed.
“I believe that we should think for the future rather than only thinking for today,”he said. . .
Ortega emphasized that while he understands the farmers’ desire to have more available income for the Christmas, the mature thing to do is to remain compliant with Fair Trade regulations.
The decision to take the money anyway was reached after canefarmers insisted that they need the money.
The Belize Cane Farmers Association is just coming off a prolonged suspension. Fair Trade cut off its funding after discovering eight major non-compliance issues with the assocation.
An audit by Flo-Cert, the company responsible for Fair Trade certifications, found the Belize Cane Farmers Association was non-compliant in areas such as the use of child labour, lack of transparency, accountability and discrimination.
The Association was only re-instated in November this year, after another Flo-Cert audit found that there had been some improvement in how the Associartion is conducting its affairs.
Industry insiders say the BCFA is almost sure to raise certification issues again as a result of using Fair Trade development money for personal spending.