By Benjamin Flowers
Despite the much heralded agreement between the Belize Cane Farmers Association and Belize Sugar Industries, the apparent breakthrough is not a done deal and will not become a done deal until the agreement has been signed and a firm date set for start-up. In a twist of events, an eleventh hour text sent out by attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd calling for the retraction of cañero support, warns of ASR/BSI’s deceptive methods in securing an agreement.
Esiquel Cansino, chief executive officer of the BSCFA, explained on Thursday that when the association received the agreement from BSI to sign, there were some minor discrepancies and the Association sent it back for correction.
“We are hoping to sign by Friday so we can set a start date from the crop,” Cansino said, adding: “The discrepancies are minor and we are sure that BSI will agree to fixing them.”
Canefarmers from Corozal and Orange Walk met at Escuela Secundaria Técnica Mexico in Corozal, on Sunday where they agreed to BSI’s proposal which carried with it four core points.
Firstly, BSI has agreed to pay and the cane farmers have agreed to accept 51 cents a ton for the bagasse byproduct.
Secondly the agreement must remain in its original state for three years before any re-negotiation can occur.
Thirdly, within one year BSI, the Government of Belize and the other stake holders must come together to draft a sugar industry sustainability policy.
Fourthly farmers must concede that the factory owns the cane at the point of sale.
As a compromise the parties agreed that they would negotiate revenue participation for any other byproduct that results from sugarcane production.
Not all of the BSFCA’s directors are pleased with the general assembly’s decision to accept the proposal.
Alfredo Ortega, vice chair of the BSCFA and a member of the negotiating team, is convinced that a better deal could have been struck for the farmers.
“We have spent two years in negotiation just to arrive back at square one,” Ortega lamented.
Audrey Matura Shepherd is also of this opinion and disseminated a text warning caneros of “being tied to a 7 year slave agreement.”
The text call for a protest of Friday’s agreement saying, “if it is signed it will be a Black Friday.”
More than two thousand cane farmers from Corozal and Orange Walk attended last Sunday’s consultation in Corozal.
They have however expressed concern that even when a final agreement has been signed cañeros will still have a hard time delivering cane in volume because the sugar roads are so bad.