Last night you heard the Prime Minister and the PUP's shadow Minister of Agriculture comment on the current impasse between ASR/BSI and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association. The PM says the parties have to work it out, while the opposition says the Government has to do its part as regulator. Today, Orange Walk East Representative Elodio Aragon - who has many cane farmers in his constituency - took the PM's line, he says both sides have to sit down:â€¦
Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs "The cane farmers have to work these things out. Definitely they have to work it out with ASR. You must understand ASR is willing to invest a lot more money on this and these things have to be worked out and the best people to work these things out are the cane farmers and ASR. I do believe there are sitting down to look at these things, I think two of the 3 associations have signed on and it's only a matter for the other one but I do think that they need to work their own stuff out and to look at where it goes, I don't think it's for the government to get involved in everything and I'm hopeful that we move forward, these investments are important, ASR is here. The industry is important to this country especially to the people in the north so definitely I am hopeful that things will work out and the sugar industry will continue to be a vibrant industry."
A Difference Over Two Dollars Per Tonne
And one of the four major issues that's keeping the Cane Farmers Association away from the table is the two dollars per ton that BSI is proposing to pay for direct consumption sugar. That's the higher grade product which BSI wants to produce and export to the Caribbean - but it will have to first invest 22 million dollars to upgrade the plant.
And for that it wants a long term agreement from farmers. But the BSCFA is asking how did they arrive at two dollars per tonne. The PUP's Jose Mai - who is himself a cane farmer - explained their concern:..
Jose Abelardo Mai - PUP, OW South Representative "We need to look at how is it that ASR came up with this 2 dollars, how is it? I have not seen the numbers yet and I think they have not shown the numbers yet but that is a very interesting question and something that farmers ought to ask. They ought to inquire how is it that you came up with 2 dollars; why not 3 dollars? Why not 5 dollars? Why not 1 dollar and this is where the company has not been very clear and very transparent and say guys this how we came up with 2 dollars."
Reporter "Would you be able to talk to us about how is that the company was able to come up with this particular amount of 2 dollars more per ton of sugar?"
Celestino Ruiz - VP, ASR Group "It's just the way the calculation came up. It's the added revenue that comes from this sugar, come up through the 65/35 formula and came up with the 2 dollars extra."
GSU, Missing Money or Innocent Inquiry?
And while that's two dollar per tonne - what about the $60,000 in intelligence gathering money that was supposed to have been unaccounted for at the GSU? We've seen a letter from the CEO in the Ministry of Home Affairs expressing concerns about how that fund is used. Today the Minister said its much ado about nothing:â€¦
Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs "There's no investigation going in any kind of misappropriation of funds that is where the ministry of home affairs was asking about the information funds. An information fund is used specifically to gather information. What we can tell you is that there's no investigation on that part to say about misappropriation and it is only to know and for accountability purposes for the department to know that these monies were used."
Minister Disagrees That He Agrees With Health Stats
We also asked Aragon about statistics from the Ministry of Health which show that homicide is the second leading cause of death in the Belize District for the first half of 2017. He said he disagrees, when really he agrees:â€¦
Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs "In terms of that information, I nearly want to think the opposite. I nearly want to think that non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in this country. Because murders, we only have about, what? Right now we only have about seventy-odd for this year so far. But I'm thinking that, it might be the opposite. But like I said you know in terms of the murder situation, the police department the government understands the situation and we are working towards getting these things done, these things didn't come about in one year that we are seeing this. It's been here for a while, and it got here over time, and it will take us some time to look at it."
Bandits For CONCACAF
The Belmopan Bandits Football Club will make its first appearance in the 2017-2018 CONCACAF Champion's League. That's after qualifying for the tournament as 2016 opening Champion, and the 2017 Closing Champion of the Premier League of Belize. They are going up against Nicaragua in their first match, and they will seek to undo the embarrassment that the Belizean football clubs have been put through in the last 2 tournaments.
That's no easy feat, since they are a semi-pro league, while the other clubs from the other countries are professional football clubs. Nevertheless, the Bandits feel that they are up to the challenge, and today, the management introduced the team to the nation in a press conference. 7News was there, and here's what the principals of the football club had to say:
The Bandits compete against the Nicaraguan champion on August 3, and that match will take place in Nicaragua. They will play the return match at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium in Belmopan on August 10.