Local farmers in arms; want to meet Agriculture Minister Godwin Hulse
BELIZE CITY, Mon May 28, 2018 – Santander, the sugar-producing multinational that started operations in the Cayo district in 2012, could violate the terms of its free zone agreement with Belize by selling its sugar in the local market .
Reports in local media point to the fact that Santander has apparently started to view the local market as another market where it can make a quick profit by selling its sugar below the controlled price set by the government for local sugar producers.
The decision of the giant multinational, originally from Spain but with significant regional investments in Guatemala, surprised local sugar producers.
On Thursday, the Belize Sugar Cane Producers Association (BSCFA), the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association (PSCPA) and the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association (CSCPA) wrote a joint letter. to the Minister of Agriculture, the Hon. Godwin Hulse.
In their letter, the three companies complained to the Hon. Hulse that it has been brought to their attention that Santander’s sugar has ended up in local stores in the north and that its sugar is sold below the controlled price set by the government in January 2016.
The companies said their investigation confirmed that Santander sugar was sold in stores in the northern neighborhoods of Orange Walk and Corozal.
The letter went on to say that the Belize Bureau of Standards had investigated the matter and confirmed that Santander was only allowed to sell its sugar in the export market, not the domestic market.
“The sale of white sugar in the domestic market by Santander is of great concern to us and our members,” said the letter from the joint association to Minister Hulse.
The joint letter goes on to say: “… in several meetings with officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, including yourself as Minister, we had received assurances that the Santander sugar production was only intended for the export market and not for local consumption. Marlet.
“The demand and consumption of white sugar in the local market represents a small amount and a small percentage of the total sugar production and sales by BSI, namely around 9,500 tonnes or seven percent (7%). Payment for cane to our cane producers is based on the proceeds from the sale of this sugar by BSI at the retail price set in 2016.
“The loss of plantation white sugar sales by BSI represents a direct loss of income for our cane producers, who number more than 5,000 people, and indirectly affects more than 25,000 people.
“In contrast, these sales of white sugar by Santander only benefit a small number of expatriate, non-Belizean, absent shareholders who are already benefiting from the sale of their sugar on international markets.”
The letter goes on to say that sugar is an important commodity affecting the livelihoods of the two northern districts, and “we believe this commodity should be protected from competition.”
The letter then states: “We therefore ask you and your ministry to provide us with answers to the following questions: 1. Are the Santander operations covered by Law No. 27 of 2001 on the sugar industry? and, if not, the law? which legal instrument do they fall under?
“2. Do the terms and conditions of Santander Belize operations include the sale of sugar in the local market, and can the ministry provide us with a copy of these terms and conditions?
“3. Did Santander obtain a license to sell sugar in Belize, and who approved this license?”
“4. What was the quantity of sugar authorized for sale in the local market and at what wholesale and retail price?
“5. How much sugar has Santander sold in the local market to date, and what is the value of those sales?
“6. Why weren’t the three associations consulted before a decision was taken, if any, to allow Santander to sell its white sugar on the local market?”
“Considering the disastrous financial impact of these sales of white sugar to the local market by Santander on the economic livelihoods of our sugar cane producers, especially at a time when world market prices are at a level very low (US $ 0.1197 per pound), we are requesting an urgent meeting with you at 2:30 p.m. on Monday May 28, 2018 either at your office in Belmopan or at the SCIB office in Orange Walk Town to discuss this serious matter. case and reach a reasonable resolution with government support. “
The letter was copied to Jose Alpuche, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Until going to press, it was not known whether Minister Hulse had met with the three farmers’ associations.
According to some sources, Santander wants a waiver so it can swallow up around 15 percent of the local sugar market. The company wants to sell 1,500 metric tonnes of brown sugar and 3,500 metric tonnes of white sugar.