Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. has until Friday midday to respond to proposals by the Belize Cane Farmers Association, which came from a meeting held on Wednesday, December 3rd.
If the response is favourable, the crop could start as early as next week. But if BSI does not budge on its stance, then cane farmers will reserve the right to protest.
Either way, observers say it is unlikely that the 2014-2015 sugar cane crop season will start next Monday, December 8, 2014, the optimal date agreed on by both parties.
Neither party is providing details, but the Reporter has been reliably informed that the BSI presented its own set of proposals to cane farmers covering the following points:
1..Ownership of the cane after BSI buys it;
2. A formula for payment of bagasse; and, . 3. Recourse by the Association to take disputes to court.
On the matter of an interim agreement, the BSCFA has, reports say, relaxed its position from demanding a yearly contract, to accepting a three year agreement.
Due to the nature of the proposals presented, BSI’s Financial Controller, Belizario Carballo was unable to state the position of the factory, since he must report to his principals first.
Wednesday’s meeting was facilitated by the Government of Belize, which had previously met with the BSCFA at the Belize Biltmore Plaza the Friday before.
Coming out of that meeting, Prime Minister Dean Barrow pledged his moral support to the BSCFA.
Barrow maintains that there is nothing he can do to force BSI’s hand, but as a result of discussions at that meeting, he was satisfied that the BSCFA was doing the right thing for the benefit of the farmers.
Neither government nor the BSCFA was inclined to provide details of the discussions held on Friday – saying only that BSCFA was s inclined to be more flexible.
Following that meeting, and with GOB’s commitment to engage with BSI/ASR, the BSCFA met with their membership last Sunday.
Approximately one thousand cane farmers from Orange Walk and Corozal attended Sunday’s meeting. The discussion was heated, reports say.
Some farmers have spoken out in favour of a harder line with BSI to force results. Others who cannot risk financial loss, want to start the crop immediately, whatever it takes.
Another issue raised at Sunday’s meeting stemmed from the fact that government has met twice with the Committee of Management of the BSCFA and eighteen branch directors, but has deliberately excluded members of the negotiating team.
Farmers insist that the negotiating team must attend all meetings because they see it as a move by the government to divide and conquer.
So it was the BSCFA’s full negotiating team which met with BSI/ASR on Wednesday. Both sides appear to be hopeful for a resolution of the dispute, but in the end, all hope depends on the factory’s response to the proposals presented.
The factory needs three days from the signing of any agreement to be in full readiness to accept sugar-cane.