by Marion Ali
While the price per ton of sugar cane delivered this coming crop year to the Belize Sugar Industries will be significantly lower than the last few years, it is nothing new from what cane farmers had been receiving five years ago, a Ministry of Agriculture official told this newspaper this week.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry, Jose Alpuche told the Reporter: “It is a reduction in earnings, but we’ve had these prices before. What happened with the very high prices recently, the crop just concluded was more the exception than the rule. So we’re going back more to prices of about four or five years ago”, Alpuche said.
Alpuche pointed out that while the farmers have had lucrative years just prior to what is coming, they knew that the goalposts were going to be shuffled. “We knew it was coming. Of course we would want to see better prices and the private sector partners – both the millers and the farmers – are in dialogue right now to see if there can be any improvement to the price. But we really have to accept that these prices are driven by the marketplace.”
The various sugarcane farmers associations have made a few suggestions to the Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI), Alpuche said, pertaining to the indicators being used in calculating the price farmers will be paid next crop season, which begins on November 30. He added that the Ministry is monitoring closely how things go.
Last crop season, cane farmers received $75 per ton of cane, and for the upcoming crop they will receive $41.56 per ton. The lower prices are driven by the European Union’s market and while the trend were apparent from last crop year, it did not impact the farmers because they were protected by prices listed in former contracts that expired this year with Tate & Lyle.
Meanwhile, the price of sugar locally is a matter separate from the price cane farmers are paid on the international market. The control price of sugar on the domestic front cannot be changed until a set of proposals are made and approved by Cabinet, Alpuche stated.