The crisis facing the Belize sugar industry over the refusal of sugar factory owners American Sugar Refining to honor an agreement to pay cane farmers for the use of bagasse for energy generation, appears to have been averted, according to a press release issued today by Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
ASR, which has a controlling interest in Belize Sugar Industries Limited, has been in negotiations with the 5,000 member Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association that wants ASR to agree to pay a percentage of the income that the BSI-ASR coglomerate makes from bagasse, which is used to produce electricity that is sold to government-owned Belize Electricit Limited. The cane farmers have said that they will not start delivering sugar cane unless agreement is reached to give them a share of the bagasse which ASR has so far refused to do, claiming it is a waste product. The impasse has threatened to delay the start of the 2013-2014 sugar crop, which usually starts on December 15.
After a another round of meetings today between Belize PM Barrow and principals of ASR, Mr. Barrow issued a statement claiming the meetings “were successful”. Without entering into details, the PM’s statement says:
“The American Sugar Refining principals accepted certain proposals made by Government and reiterated their desire and determination to work with Government of Belize and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association to move Belize’s sugar industry forward. American Sugar Refinery also expressed their gratitude for the Prime Minister’s intervention, and Government of Belize’s leadership in trying to resolve the dispute. The Prime Minister and his team will now meet with the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association at 2:00 p.m. today.”
It is expected that if the sugar cane farmers accept the proposals as agreed to between PM Barrow and ASR, a date will be set for the commencement of the sugar crop. But is is believed by local experts that the date may be delayed anyway by at least two weeks due to the current wet conditions in Belize, and the need to carry out repairs to sugar roads.