It is unjust to blame the Prime Minister for what has happened to the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association.

Mr. Barrow did not pressure the company last year into starting the grinding season without a delivery contract. That was the work of the Cane Farmers Association.

Mr. Barrow did not participate in the decision to hijack $4 million dollars from funds provided by the Fairtrade Association for research and development to be shared among 5,000 cane farmers. That was the work of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association.

Mr. Barrow did not raise any false hopes that the Sugar Control Board had the ability to wave a magic wand and command the two warring parties to put their differences aside and begin the grinding season.

Mr. Barrow did not ask the Cane Farmers to renege on their pledge to support an agreement to start the grinding sooner rather than later. That was a decision taken by leaders of the cane farmers association.

The BSCFA knew that its delaying tactics had cost BSI/ASR a lot of money last year, and they believed they would be successful in exerting the same kind of pressure this year to get what they want.

The most important issue in this whole huge controversy is the idea held by cane farmers that they can eat their cake and still have it. Instead of putting their energies into negotiating a new price for their sugarcane, as they were invited to do by the company, cane farmers sought to prove that they retained ownership of the cane, even after it was delivered to the mill and ground into fiber.

There is a singular difference in the concept of ownership held by the American millers and that of the cane farmers. To the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association money is exchanged for the sugarcane, but there is no final sale because cane farmers retain a residual interest in whatever is left over after the milling. To the Americans, if you buy a pig, you buy the squeal that goes with the pig!

The Americans want to negotiate things up-front, where there are no hidden innuendos. This is also the way the world does business. If the Belizean suppliers want to derive some benefit from the bagasse waste product, they should negotiate that benefit in the price of the sugarcane. It seems such a simple, straightforward way of doing business that investors cannot understand why anybody would want to insist on the old way.

In the emotional frenzy which follows a stand-off such as we have seen, a lot of people get blamed for imagined wrongs.

The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association has itself to blame for not understanding the changing landscape and for following the adversarial approach that negotiation equals defiance. It’s greatest loss is not that it has spent an exhausting year in useless wrangling, but that it has lost the confidence of its greatest ally and benefactor, the Fairtrade Association of Europe, and the confidence of many of its members who prefer not to follow a political path in the pursuit of their business.

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