2014/2015 Sugar Crop in Review

“Preparing for the challenges of 2017” was the theme for the post harvest conference organized by Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. on Friday, July 24th 2015 at the Muffles College Auditorium. Over 250 cane farmers and stakeholders attended the eventwhich reviewed crop performance at both field and factory level but with a focus on planning to meet the challenges facing the industry.  Industry stakeholders are well aware of the need to build competitiveness to remain viable given the changes in the EU market, which has traditionally been Belize’s most preferential sugar market.  On October 2017, current restrictions on beet production will be lifted and the increased supply is expected to result in even further downward pressure on prices.  So whilst access to the EU market remains, the value of the preference will be materially impacted.

The Milling Report for the 2015 crop was presented by BSI’s Production Superintendent, Nolberto Leiva, which highlighted the excellent factory performance for the crop with several new records achieved, including record production of 141,998 tons sugar from 1,186,154 tons cane which resulted in a record Tons Cane to Tons Sugar (Tc/Ts) ratio of 8.35.

The marked improvement in the Tc/Ts ratio was due to improved cane quality (pol in cane of 13.5 and cane purity of 87.9) combined with improved factory efficiencies (pol extraction of 95.3, Factory Time Efficiency of 97.9, Overall Factory Time Efficiency of 95.2, and Overall Recovery of 86.9). Mr. Leiva also highlighted factory improvements planned for the 2015/16 crop. Chairman of SCPC, Jose Novelo, gave a presentation on a six year review of sugar cane production and quality.

ASR Group’s Vice-President of International Relations, Mac McLachlan, spoke about Sustainability in the Sugar Industry. Among his key messages is the need for the Sugar Industry to focus on factory efficiency, cane productivity, costs of harvesting and delivery, affordable credit, improved logistics, infrastructure (roads/drainage) and industry co-ordination to become both globally competitive and sustainable.

The presentations were followed by questions and discussion with the audience. SIRDI’s Information Officer, JessamynRamos, also gave an update on the Sugar Industry Management Information System (SIMIS), which at the end of its surveys will indicate the actual quantity and location of cane in production. The leaders of PSCPA, CSCPA and BSCFA also gave a few words on behalf of their farmers.


In the afternoon, cane farmers and industry stakeholders came together in groups to identify issues facing the Sugar industry and how they can be overcome. Each group presented their solutions which were collated and circulated to all stakeholders for implementation in the upcoming 2015/16 crop. The record crop season of 2014/15 gave the industry many reasons to celebrate but there are still many issues that need to be addressed and challenges to overcome. There is a new focus in the upcoming crop season- The Strategic Development Plan which will set out a road map for industry reform to make sugar production in Belize more competitive.

 

 

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

BSCFA Fully Committed to Strategic Development Plan

For the Post Harvest Conference 2015, held on July 24th 2015, chairmen of each association were invited to deliver a speech to cane farmers and Sugar Industry stakeholders present at the event. Ezequiel Cansino, Chairman of the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association emphasized during his speech that the BSCFA continues to be a solid and strong association:

“We have mentioned only some factors and activities which demonstrate, despite the division of the BSCFA intro three associations, that we continue to strengthen and maintain ourselves as a united solid family...Our association continues representing the majority of cane farmers – 4,142 of 5,442 registered farmers. The BSCFA also continues to be certified under Fair Trade and will continue to receive Fair Trade premiums through the sugar sold by BSI under the Fair Trade logo.”

Ezequiel Cansino also made emphasis on the importance of the Sugar Industry. He stated that with events like the Post Harvest Conference, “the entire nation of Belize can appreciate the Sugar Industry’s contribution towards the development of Belize and towards the creation of opportunities, employment, revenue and foreign exchange”.

Cansino also stated that his Association is committed to the development and implementation of the Strategic Development Plan. Along with other Sugar Industry Stakeholders, they are fulfilling this commitment by actively participating in all the Committees and Working Groups that have been established. BSCFA also fully supports the necessity for the Sugar Industry to compete globally through increased productivity, reduction of costs throughout the cane production supply chain, production and marketing of sugar.

Cansino ended his speech by stating that the BSCFA is conscious of the difficult times that the industry will be facing in the near future. However, he believes that if the industry is united and works together, it can overcome any obstacle and assure its competitiveness, sustainability and viability.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association: Catering and Supporting Farmers!

The CSCPA, revised under Chapter 325 under the Sugar Industry Act, was established on January 15th, 2015 and comprises of 7 Board Members. The Association held its First Annual General Meeting on 12th April, 2015 at the Andres Campos Civic Centre; the AGM was well attended with over 115 cane farmers from both the Orange Walk and Corozal District.

The meeting started off by seeking the approval from members for Amendments to the Bylaws. The 2015 Budget was also discussed and approved followed by ways how the association could move forward for the benefit of all its members. Other topics covered during the meeting included approval for the Fair Trade Plan of Work. The Board compromised to work hand in hand and move towards successful upcoming crop seasons.

Now that we are at the end of the 2015 Crop Season, the CSCPA would like to congratulate all our members for harvesting and delivering quality cane to the mill. We also extend an invitation to any farmer who would like to join our association for the 2016 crop season. Remember that at CSCPA, we cater and support for all farmers!

 

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

BSI's Annual Summer Work Program

BSI hosted 29 students for this year’s annual Summer Work Program at the Belize Sugar
Industries Limited for the months of June and July. The program targets students countrywide who are attending secondary and tertiary institutions. Its aim is to sharpen the skills of young students who will join the working world in the near future. This opportunity allows them to gain experience in their different fields of study.

Numerous applications for the program are submitted every year with BSI hosting one set of students in the first month and another set in the second month. This summer, students from Murray State University, University of Quintana Roo, Orange Walk Institute for Technical and Vocational Training, Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College, among others, were given summer job opportunities at BSI based on their respective fields of study.

The wide array of students’ field of study this year ranged from Business Management, Accounting and Information Technology to Electro-Mechanical Engineering, Natural Resource Management and Biochemistry.

Most interns whose majors involved business management and accounting were posted in the administrative offices whereas students whose major included laboratory and engineer work were posted at the factory. In some cases, interns did both field work and office work, which allowed them to broaden their experience in both environments.

 BSI is proud to have been hosting this program for over a decade knowing that empowering the minds of young people leads to a better community and leaves students with a wider knowledge of what their careers have in store for them.

 

One of the reasons students seek this opportunity is because it allows them to be productive during the summer. Internships, which are required in order to graduate from their field, are amongst the reasons some students choose to take on this work opportunity at BSI. The program also assists in covering school expenses as acquiring an education is also costly.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Strategic Development Plan: Cane Reaping and Transport

It has been realized for many years that producing and exporting sugar from Belize incurs higher costs than its competing countries.

In particular the long standing sugar price support from the European Union is to be discontinued in 2017. It is likely that the export price of sugar will be reduced by 25 – 35% and Belize will be exposed to much more competition from the large scale and more efficient sugar producers in countries such as Brazil.

In Belize, cane is mainly grown by a large number of relatively small scale independent farmers. In common with small-scale farming elsewhere in the world, the economic realities of limited production and under-utilization of expensive machinery has resulted in high production costs and financial difficulties for many of Belize’s cane farmers, even with the safety net of higher EU sugar prices.

The costs of reaping and delivering cane to Tower Hill are very high by international standards. They are currently approximately 50% ($27-$32 with a projected cane price of $60.45) of the farmer’s total income from cane. In other countries this figure is 25 – 30% of the cane income.

The high reaping costs are partly caused by there being excess cane loaders and trucks in the Tower Hill cane catchment area, with subsequent severe under-utilization. The cane loaders are being operated at approximately 3% of their capacity and the trucks at approximately 15% of capacity.

Reaping Groups

There are currently 269 registered reaping groups. 43% are so small that they can deliver only one load per day. Reaping groups are frequently family-based. Only 23% of the groups can deliver more than two average (16 t) loads per day. Only three reaping groups each deliver over 100 t/day.

Mechanical Loading

At present each reaping group operates one grab loader. These units vary between old tractor-mounted units to the purpose-built 4wd Cameco SP1800. Given adequate cane and transport units the Cameco can load 30 – 40 tons/hour. Operating 24 hours/day in other countries they can load 600 – 700 t/day. This compares with the median 15 t/day currently being loaded in Belize.

Cane Transport Units

It is estimated that there are over 500 cane transport units currently in the system. The productivity of the delivery units (mainly trucks) to Tower Hill is very low and therefore expensive. These trucks are capable of making 2 – 3 trips per shift to the mill, equating to 6 trips per day or more. They are actually only making one trip per day since under the present delivery by appointment system, the cane is delivered in succession by each test group, averaging 380 t/group. This represents 1.25 hours milling at 7 200 t/day.


The one load per day restriction is also adversely affecting cane quality as the cane is waiting in the trucks for too long. The delivery by appointment system has reduced truck queues at the factory but many loaded trucks are still parked in the villages for up to 24 hours.

Recommendations

Amalgamation of reaping groups into larger units would be economically beneficial without incurring adverse effects. One load per day cannot pay the fixed and variable costs of operating a truck.

Changes in the scheduling and sampling system could be made to first allow at least two deliveries per truck per day. This would require the test groups to be enlarged to a minimum of 500 t/day, with the deliveries split in two halves, one day and one night. Each half would then deliver 250 t, which is regarded as the current minimum sample size. This split delivery would permit two loads per truck per day.

Once the concept of two deliveries per day per truck by larger reaping groups became accepted the number of cane trucks in the district could be reduced.Truck productivity in the existing multi-truck reaping groups could be improved immediately by increasing truck capacity (buy larger trucks or fit a trailer to a 10 wheeler) and reducing the number of trucks.

In addition, a mechanism must be found to allow several trips in a day (preferably with the largest possible trucks). It is therefore essential for the future of both the cane farmers and the miller that reaping costs are reduced. If this cannot be achieved there will be a major threat to the ongoing existence of the whole sugar industry in Belize.


Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Monthly Average Rainfall at Tower Hill

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The graph shows rainfall recorded at Tower Hill in 2012, 2013, 2014 and up to July 26th, 2015. As can be noted, after an evident drop in rainfall from January to February 2015, there was a slight increase in rainfall from March to April 2015 of 22.9 mm of rain. The month of May 2015 had recorded the lowest rainfall than in previous years with 29.1 mm of rain. Rainfall increased significantly to 195 mm of rain in the month of June 2015, proving to be the highest recorded amount of rainfall for the year thus far. Rainfall dropped significantly to 23.75mm in the beginning of July as the crop season came to a close and increased slightly to 41.75mm at the end of the month.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

From Sugar Cane to Sugar Crystals

There are six basic processes involved in sugar manufacturing: Preparation, Extraction, Clarification, Evaporation, Crystallization, Separation.

EVAPORATION OF CANE JUICE

 Multiple Effect Evaporators which boil the juice coming from the Clarifier

Multiple Effect Evaporators which boil the juice coming from the Clarifier

The clarified juice that comes out from the Clarifier contains about 85-87 percent of water
and between 13-15 percent of solids. The crystallization of sugar cannot happen in solutions containing less than 70 to 80 percent of solids; because of this, evaporation is necessary to
concentrate the cane juice to obtain sugar crystals.

At the evaporation station, the clear juice is boiled in Multiple Effect Evaporators. BSI operates 10 vessels and commonly employs a quadruple effect with 4 vessels. The evaporators are heat vessels that transfer heat from steam to the juice.

 Exhaust Pipe which transports low pressure steam from Belcogen Steam Turbines to Factory

Exhaust Pipe which transports low pressure steam from Belcogen Steam Turbines to Factory

Low pressure steam, from the exhaust of the steam turbines at Belcogen, is used to boil the juice in the first vessel. As the juice boils, water is converted into vapor thereby concentrating the juice. This juice passes into the second vessel.

 Syrup containing 65 to 68 percent solids which must be concentrated further to form

Syrup containing 65 to 68 percent solids which must be concentrated further to form

The vapor, from the boiling of the juice in the first vessel, is then used to heat the juice in the second vessel resulting in a further concentration of the juice. All evaporator vessels are each heated by the vapor from the previous vessel. Therefore, every pound of steam introduced into the first vessel results in the evaporation of four pounds of water. At this point, the greater part of the excess water is removed to yield a concentrated juice called “Syrup”, containing 65 to 68 percent solids. The syrup must be concentrated further so that the sucrose in solution will form crystals of sugar, which is our topic for the next article.

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association: Focused on a Progressive Steady Growth!

The Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association was formed on January 15th, 2015 by its brave, bold and perseverant leaders - Mr. Abisur Loza (Chairman), Mr. Cosme Hernandez (General Manager), Mr. Octavio Cowo, Mr Lucilo Jimenez and Mr. Tiburcio Acosta. The Association currently leads 955 farmers with the vision of assisting its members to increase their productivity and to assist the sugar industry through economic growth. As the Association’s logo states, PSCPA has been moving forward on a steady progressive growth since its inception.

The association inaugurated its office on February 23rd, 2015 and have been operating to the best of their ability using the available resources.

On April 18th, PSCPA hosted a Free Clinic day for all members of the association and also family and friends who they wished to bring along. On May 17th, 2015 the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association held their first Annual General Meeting. Cane farmers came from Orange Walk, San Roman, San Estevan, Guinea Grass, Douglas, San Jose, Patchakan, Cristo Rey and San Pedro. At the meeting, the Bylaws of PSCPA were finalized and for the first time in history, cane farmers’ votes were casted through a delegate system where matters were resolved peacefully.

Now, at the end of crop 2015, the PSCPA is working diligently to increase its membership and productivity for the upcoming crop 2016. We will keep focused on a steady progressive growth!

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Second Sugar Fest Proves to be a Huge Success

The Second Annual Sugar Fest sponsored by ASR Group-BSI attracted a crowd of over 2,000 people to the BSI Field on Saturday July 25th to celebrate this year’s record-breaking crop season. The event also aimed to bring farmers, industry employees and their families together in a fun filled, relaxed setting and to assist charity organizations in their fund raising efforts by sponsoring their fund raising booths.

The celebratory activities commenced shortly after 9 a.m. with the performance of the Gwen Lizarraga Marching Band! Seats were filled under the central tent as people joined in to enjoy the fun-filled day. Following a brief opening ceremony, the morning waspacked with performances under the main tent, including cultural dances by the Palmar Culture Group and JoJo the Clown who captured the audience with fun and laughter as he danced with audience members and played musical chairs with the young children. TechnoBand then swept the stage with their live performances keeping the audience glued to their seats or, in other instances, keeping them dancing off their feet.

While some listened to the bands performing under the tent, others explored the various stalls and booths of businesses that were stationed all around the field who were pleased to offer their icy treats, tasteful dishes and even hand-made products. Charity groups had their own booths as well, where they were able to raise funds for worthy causes.

The Fest sweetened the weekend for hundreds of kids as they were entertained by a number of games and activities. SIRDI hosted competitive games including the Sugar- Spoon Relay and Water Balloon Toss. Across the field, children swarmed the bouncy houses and trampolines that were available to them free of charge. BSI had a booth of their own, Kids Corner, where kids could go get face painting, color pictures and even get some free candy.

The afternoon consisted of a second outstanding performance by the Gwen Lizarraga Marching band, an ACM demonstration and an abundant amount of prizes that were raffled to Sugar Industry employees, cane farmers and the general public. Abraxas closed off the event by rocking the stage with classics at around 4 p.m. Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmers Relations officer at BSI, says that Sugar Fest was a huge success - twice as big as last year and that it was indeed a fun sugar industry family affair on Saturday July 25th 2015!

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

Meet Tower Hill Mill Employees at the Evaporation Station

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 Andre Gonzalez

Andre Gonzalez

Meet two of our Process Technicians who are responsible in managing and coordinating with the Shift Juice Attendants the operation of the clarification, filtration and evaporator station to achieve maximum plant utilization and efficiency.

 Oral Hyde

Oral Hyde

Meet one of our Juice Process Attendants who are responsible for the efficient operation of the clarification, filtration and evaporation station. They control and monitor the performance of the operational units for these stations to ensure that the required operational parameters are achieved.

 

 

Posted on October 1, 2015 .

BSI's Agriculture Department Incentivizes Cane Cutters

In order to incentivize and motivate cane cutters from the five cane cutting groups being contracted by the Belize Sugar Industries, the agriculture department awarded one monthly bicycle prize to the cane cutter with the highest cane tons cut for the month!

The competition ran from the opening of the crop season from January 26th,  2015 until the end of the crop season on July 12th, 2015.

Monthly winners were selected from monthly cane cutting data compiled by BSI’s Agriculture Department!

 

Posted on October 1, 2015 .