In addition to signing new cane purchase agreements, BSCFA, PSCPA, CSCPA, BSI and the Government of Belize have also signed a statement of commitment to develop and agree on a Strategic Development Plan to make the sugar industry of Belize sustainable into the future. What does this mean?
Belize has to become more competitive to survive as a sugar industry. Sugar is a global commodity market. The prices paid for sugar are dictated by global demand and supply. In
recent years, the supply from countries like Brazil, India and Thailand has meant there is a surplus of sugar in the international market. This keeps global prices low, to around BZ $30 cents a pound, or US $330 a ton of sugar. Belize is not immune to this issue. It cannot sell sugar for more than international markets are willing to pay. Also, the prices for sugar in the EU are falling, as the market prepares for increased supply of beet sugar in 2017.
The SDP will set out a road map for industry reform, to make sugar production more competitive. Belize is blessed with plenty of sugar land ,committed cane farmers and an efficient mill. The SDP will cover issues such as how to improve the investment climate to enable the expansion at the mill to grind 1.8 to 2 million tons of cane. How to improve cane productivity – both cane yields per acre, and quality of cane. If yields on cane land are improved, even though sugar prices per ton of cane are falling, farmers will get higher revenues because they are producing more tons of sugar per acre than now.Farmers will need support to achieve this, through access to affordable credit. The government has a role under the SDP to improve sugar roads and drainage. The efficiency of transporting the sugar from factory to ship needs to be improved. Solutions to all these issues need to be identified within the SDP.
An SDP steering group has been formed, and representatives of all three associations, the mill and the government are meeting regularly to discuss these issues. Farmers will be able to participate in working groups to identify the challenges to all these issues. This is important because everyone in the industry will have a part to play in implementing solutions to overcome them, and if everyone plays their part, the Industry can flourish for the benefit of everyone.