REPORT #546 October 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

US Business Executives and Politicians are masters at defining a problem (oversimplifying it, of course), giving it a catchy name, and then setting up a program with an equally catchy name which will "solve the problem."

Gun control is a good example. If you can define the problem as "Guns" then a program called "Gun Control" will "solve the problem." Of course, the problem isn't guns, the problem is deeply rooted in human nature, and it's not susceptible to a quick fix.

This weeks "Reporter" has a nice example of the "quick fix" approach. The headline is: "Strange Bedfellows. Canefarmers out in the cold again!"

You can find the article at It paints BSI as the bad guy, out to screw the poor cane farmers out of some rightful income. The rightful income, is a share of the bagasse which BSI intends to sell to a new Cogeneration Company. However, the article does not really give you the whole story, altho it alludes to most of the facts.

Fact 1. When Bagasse was a waste product, BSI tried to get the Cane Farmers to share in the cost of disposing of it. "No," said the farmers. "That's part of your cost of doing business."

Fact 2. Suddenly, the Bagasse is worth money. (Interesting, isn't it, how technology can change not only perception, but reality as well.) Now, the farmers want to share in that money.

Comment. We could ask "What did the farmers do to contribute to the change in perspective?" But no...the _Reporter_ didn't do that. It simply uses the Bad Guy approach. If BSI is the problem, we can get BSI to change and solve it. Sorry, it's not that simple. (Is it ever?)

Fact 3. Almost all sugar companies outside of Belize pay by sugar content rather than by the weight of the cane. Not so in Belize. BSI buys the cane and produces the bagasse as a by-product of the refining process. Who owns the bagasse? Looks like BSI bought and paid for it.

Fact 4. In fact, BSI desperately want to pay by sugar content, and the cane farmers have fought that change. If BSI could pay by sugar content, they would automatically reward the sugar farmers who are using improved techniques to produce better cane as well as more cane. Many of the farmers, however, are stuck in the middle of the last century with their growing techniques, and as Peter likes to point out, it's really hard to get anybody to change in Belize. Certainly not a third generation cane farmer who's still doing it like his grandpappy.

Fact 5. There are roughly 7000 sugar growers in Belize. They represent a potent political force, if only half of them vote. Certainly more potent that BSI and its staff. (No wonder BSI can't get them to change.)

Fact 6. The article calls the cane farmers "stakeholders." Indeed they are. So is BSI. It is a symbiotic relationship: Neither can do it without the other. They both should be interested in profit -- and we are pretty sure that BSI isn't in it for the fun, power, prestige. I'm not so sure about the cane farmers.

Fact 7. There are four times as many cane trucks in northern Belize as are needed to haul sugar. There are at least twice as many loaders, and most are woefully under utilized. All it would take is a little organization on the part of the cane farmers to cut their costs, cut the amount of time they spend waiting in line at the mill, and of course, make more money.

Comment. The cane farmers can get organized when they want to bitch and moan about the sugar market and the mill end. Too bad they can't get organized about their own business of growing cane, cutting it, and getting it to the factory.

Just an interested bystander in cane country.

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