“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.