If no ASR, What? Print E-mail
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Written by Jamil Metar   
Thursday, 04 October 2012 00:00

I have not been to a House of Representatives meeting for many, many years and so last Wednesday, September 26th, was a treat for me as I listened to the live debate relating to the Sugar Industry and Cogeneration Project Development Incentives Act, 2012. Both the Act and the Investment are now history, and since there have been so many commentaries on the subject, I will defer from discussing the merits of both issues so as not to be accused of being cruel to a dead horse.

There were a few things that jumped out at me during the House debate and over the airwaves, however, which I am itching to comment on. In last week’s edition of the Amandala, the editorial “Sugar and Spice; Sugar rolls the Dice…” presented a fairly balanced view of the situation in the sugar industry and the reasoning for BSI’s partnership with ASR.

I will comment later on one of the statements in the Amandala editorial but first let me try to condense a complex situation into a couple of simple sentences. Basically, the market crash a few years ago made BSI very vulnerable due to its recent investments in the Sugar Factory and Power Plant. This situation, coupled with a long period of undersupply of sugar cane, really perturbed the bankers and they simply called their loans. These international lending institutions now operate under strict guidelines rather than merciful emotions. When the financial relationship as a client is no longer profitable, or poses too much risk, they want their money back. You can’t hate them for that; it’s called capitalism, Jack.

Now back to the general criticism of the Act, which was passed by Parliament last week. The main statement being echoed in most commentaries, but especially so at Channel Fox and CTV3, is that the poor farmer is now at a disadvantage against BSI with this new law. They claim that since the sugar company harvests 3,000 acres of cane fields each year, it will produce cane at a cheaper cost and eventually run the small farmers out of business.

This is so not true. Let me share this with you: there are 60,000 acres of land under cane cultivation in Corozal and Orange Walk. The 3,000 acres of land that BSI leases from private owners to grow cane is a drop in this big bucket. In actual mathematical terms, this signifies that over 90% of sugarcane, which is brought to the Factory, is from independent cane farmers. Another quick fact: all cane farmers alike enjoy equal tax concessions in growing and harvesting cane, even now.

The comment I especially liked in the Amandala was the last paragraph when the editor suggested that Musa should go to “political pasture”. That gave me a kick, since I got that very same impression in the House meeting. The younger House members are teasing him now, finishing his statements for him when he loses his trend of thought, and then laughing out loud.

Musa was rooting for the cane farmers that day, laying a heap of false accusations against the Hon. Godwin Hulse. He also quoted from a letter from Mr. Aban, Chairman of the Cane Farmers Association, to prove his point that farmers are being taken advantage of by this Government. Mr. Musa must have already forgotten that when he was Prime Minister and was trying to boost the sugar industry, he openly told the same Mr. Aban that farmers should grow more cane to supply BSI. So what did Mr. Hulse do wrong in dispensing this same advice, Sir?

But hear what, let us move on; the threat of foreclosure is now gone, and October 3rd marked a new beginning in the sugar industry. The future does not now stop at the horizon, but way beyond if all stakeholders are willing to embrace th-is opportunity and adopt new strategies for increasing the cultivation of sugar cane. Let us not allow politicians to cloud our judgment in an attempt to interfere with a good investment for our country.