Cane Farmers and BSI workers on Board for Atlantida investment Print E-mail
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Thursday, 28 July 2011 00:00

P.M. Dean Barrow and Deputy P.M. Gasper Vega meet with BSI workers.On Wednesday  July 27th Prime Minister of Belize, honorable Dean Barrow along with Deputy Prime Minister held discussions with representatives from the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association and the BSI workers.

The first meeting was held in Orange Walk where Hon. Vega met with 18 directors of the cane farmers association, its CEO and two other advisors to the farmers. Hon Vega explained that the directors were comfortable in having discussions. He said that the meeting involved the farmers expressing their concerns as well as their needs and wants, ending with the realization that not everything that they aspire for is possible. Hon. Vega added that on the issue of Banco Atlantida and their interest in investing in BSI, it was an issue where even some of the directors did not understand what was taking place. At the conclusion of the meeting the directors left with more clarity as to what the transaction really entails and what it means to them in terms of improving the life standards in the north.

After the meeting with the cane farmers, Hon. Vega travelled to Belize City where at 2:30p.m., he and the Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow met with the other major stakeholder in the industry, the BSI workers. This group is at the center of a misinformation campaign being led by the opposition PUP. At the end of the meeting, President of the Workers Union Horris Patten explained that the meeting was helpful in that the PM, Deputy PM and the workers discussed the matter of the investment that is to be done by Banco Atlantida. He added that the workers wanted to know what they should look forward to.

One point which Patten made clear; that is that the workers are not selling their 35 million shares which they hold in BSI. The workers he said will retain their 35 million shares but what will take place is that Banco Atlantida will infuse capital into BSI. That investment will include USD$90 Million; 20 million will go to BSI’s loan repayment, Factory expansion at USD $25M, cane growing projects of USD$25M and USD$20 million will be on-lent to existing cane farmers to improve on their cane production. According The infusion of new capital into BSI would mean an expansion in equity which would cause the 35 million shares to reduce in percentage from 81 percent to about 35 to 40 percent.

And the capital infusion according to Patten is absolutely necessary he said that, “In the position that BSI is in right now I don’t think anyone could really object because BSI is saying that financially they are very badly off and if they are badly off financially the only other means is to inject new capital. So we can’t be annoyed about its either you have a job or you don’t!” He concluded that they have no problem with the investment however they would want to speak to Banco Atlantida themselves to hear what the deal is. For now Patten is hopeful that BSI will settle its financial issues either by getting the new capital or getting the banks to roll over another period in order to finalize the transaction.

In speaking with the Prime Minister he explained that the meeting was productive in that they managed to allay fears by the BSI workers that they would be paid dividends owed to them. Those dividends are around 5.2 million dollars. He added that the workers are aware that BSI is in urgent need of capital.

Commenting on the PUP’s move to try and cause panic within the sugar industry, he said that he was disappointed that the PUP does not understand that without the infusion of capital the industry would be on the verge of collapse. He added that, “I don’t see how any red blooded Belizean especially a norteno would want that to happened and would be seeking that to happen it is disgusting.” Commenting on the possibility that if Atlantida does not make the investment he said that, “government will ensure that we limp along for however much into the future we can but it would be discouraging because we will not reach any position of sustained viability absent the injection of capital. Without injection of capital sooner rather than later we would be facing a collapse of the factory and I am hoping earnestly that this deal can be stitched together to satisfy workers and farmers to bring this much needed revitalization to the industry.”

As it is government has a 10 million dollar stake in BSI but the Prime Minister said that more importantly it has a “huge public interest” and the government will do everything it can to have the deal go through.