Rocky start to sugar crop


The sugar industry is once again facing challenges just days after the sugar cane production season started. Threats emerged on Christmas Eve that there would be unrest in the sector if there was not a modification in the way sugar quotas were being issued. As a result of this, the Sugar Industry Control Board (SICB) held a meeting with stakeholders on Sunday to address the concerns.
While the Minister of Agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai says that a new quota system was devised in the meeting; only the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), SICB and Agriculture Ministry representatives were present. Notably absent were representatives of the other four cane producing associations as well as BSI. According to Mai, the new system will be more equitable in the way quotas are distributed. Previously, each farmer was allotted a 30% increase in the amount of cane deliveries done in the past season. Basically, a 30% increase in quota allotments was done for growth to those farmers who actually delivered cane.
What the BSCFA is now advocating for is for a different methodology. According to Mai, farmers who did not deliver any cane last year would be allotted quotas without so much as even knowing whether they have the cane to supply the quota. Industry insiders are saying that under the new quota distribution system, quotas are being taken from those who filled 100% of their quotas and are being given to those who did not deliver any. One example was given of a farmer who only delivered 44 tons last year and is now being given 445 tons in quota. The problem is that this farmer like so many in the BSCFA do not actually have cane.
It is a maneuver being done by the PUP administration to keep farmers appeased. However, this process is now coming at the expense of the entire industry. In true patronage form, quotas are now being taken from those farmers who are actually producing and are being given to those who do not produce.