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Santander violates EPZ status and sells sugar locally Print E-mail
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Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 31 May 2018 00:00

Last week, sugar from the Santander group which is producing sugar out of the Cayo district began to make its way into the local market, specifically in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts. This sent players in the sugar industry in the north into a scramble to try to determine what was happening and had representatives of the three cane farmers associations requesting an audience with the minister of Agriculture.

Since the original complaint, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce on Tuesday May 29th issued a release in which it clarified that Santander sugar should not be in the local market. It states that Santander Sugar Ltd is operating under an Export Processing Zone status since February 17th, 2014 and was authorized by the Export Processing Zone Committee to “process raw sugar and molasses” for the export market.

It went on to state that, “On January 11th, 2018 the company expressed interest to value add its product to take full advantage of opportunities that may exist in the CARICOM Market.  The company initiated the process to apply to the Export processing Zone Committee for an amendment of its Certificate of Compliance and Operations Contract for its Export Processing Zone status to include the production of plantation white sugar.  The final application remains pending and will be submitted for the review and consideration of the EPZ Committee once all the application requirements are met.”

It was not until May 10th, 2018 that the Ministry was alerted that Santander was distributing planation white sugar on the local market. Since then, on May 11th, “the company was served with a letter from the Ministry of Investment informing that it must submit an official request for a waiver to the EPZ Committee for consideration, if any sales are to take place in the local market.” This was done by the company on May 18 and was being considered by the ministry and by May 24 the Ministry issued a cease and desist letter to the company after receiving confirmation that plantation white sugar was being distributed, despite the letter which was served to the company on May, 11th, 2018.  This cease and desist letter indicated that the company was in clear violation of the EPZ Act and contrary to what they had been authorized under their Certificate of Compliance.

Since the cease and desist order it has been confirmed that Santander Sugar Ltd had one local distributor to whom they sold 750 metric tons of sugar that’s equivalent to 13 thousand sacks of sugar.

In its release the Ministry states that it, “is conducting an assessment and consultations with the Ministry of Agriculture and other relevant stakeholders in its effort to formulate recommendations to the Export Processing Zone Committee on this matter.

The Ministry has also been engaging with the Customs and Excise Department to determine a means to clear the local market from the sugar that had been supplied by Santander.

To date, no waivers or permits have been provided to Santander Sugar Ltd by the Government of Belize.

The Government is committed to follow due process on the issues that have developed and to ensure that the laws of Belize are abided by.  Our ambition is to assist Belize’s sugar industry to develop its value added production capacity to become the main regional supplier of sugar in the Caribbean Community.”

Late on Wednesday evening Santander issued a release in which it apologized stating that, “we failed to realize that we needed and additional waiver for the local markets.” It goes on to state that it, “reaffirms its commitment to uphold all Belize laws and procedures.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 May 2018 12:02