Monday, February 2, 2009

Kamikaze Cane Farmers

Someone died today. Whatever the circumstances of his death, he didn't have to die. Today, though it would be easy to find the comedic elements in the tragedy, to find them I'd have to go past the fury that's blocking my vision. Why fury? Because someone died today, and his death was unnecessary.

For the benefit of strangers to my country and those who have logged on from their mid-jungle gopher holes, let me explain briefly that sugar cane and politics have always been a combustible mix in Belize. You see, our politicians have neither strength of will nor courage of conviction, and it takes a great deal of both to take on the cane farmers.

In some respects, today's clash has been coming for decades. In another way, it has been coming for about three years. Either way, what you have is an ailing industry producing substandard product and being propped up and indulged by successive governments.  Sounds sensible, doesn't it?  No, I didn't think so either.

Now, the core sampler in question is a tool for measuring quality. Higher quality logically means more sugar per ton of cane delivered. In a world where commodity prices aren’t the best, and quotas are disappearing, it should go without saying that Belize’s survival interest lies in producing the best possible product, to get the best possible prices.

Instead the cane farmers are willing to fight to the death for the right to kill their industry. And at the cost of one life today, they won one more battle for their self-destruction. Tonight the core sampler is unplugged, and “same-old, same-old” triumphs yet again.

Mr. Politician, as a taxpayer, I feel I have the right to tell you this: if these guys want to destroy the industry, don’t help them do it by indulging them for the sake of votes.  Because when the sugar industry dies –is murdered– you’re going to expect me to pay for the farmers to avoid starvation.  And I won’t have it!

In other words, don’t expect me to donate the fuel for the cane farmers’ kamikaze flights.


  1. A truly truly sad state of affairs. All so very terribly unecessary. Personally, I feel it boils down to a lack of education on the part of the powers that be not providing adequate education on the topic and the cane farmers (through their representatives) not being receptive to the information that is being passed. Perhaps really it boils down to a gross and unacceptable lack of communication. What ought to be kept in mind is that the information and education on this ought not to be passed down, but around. It sickens me..I myself am for the most part out of the loop..and yet I have managed to pick up on the basics of this core sampling business over the past few years. Why then have not others seen the importance of it and the importance to weigh the effects it would have and why haven't options been considered in addressing these impacts before it lead to all of this?

  2. The SugarCane Industry has been in trouble for a long time. They are also a wilful set and have been encouraged to think that they are special. The North of Belize has it's own way of demonstrating and has always ended up with some form of violence. But this time they went too far. Our Government lacks the strength and the political will to put them in their place. The Core Sampler is essential and should never have been removed. They are setting a precedence. All we gotta do is gather a large crowd, make a lotta noise, start blocking areas, throw stones, burn tires and t-shirts, and in general rile the police, so they retaliate,(oh, and wear bulletproof vests, so one of us doesn't get killed) and Voila...we get what we want. One or two dead here and there..(hey, they become martyrs). We need to follow our laws and be made to follow them. Unfortunately, we don't have the right Leaders.

  3. There is a lot more than meet the eyes and you should hear how Johnny Briceno radio station was egging the farmers along. What about Carlos Magana, the CEO, who riled up farmers and then could not control them. I think there is a big stink that is about to burst about the 7.2 million belize dollars the cane farmers got from Fair Trade and now can't fully explain where it went. Maybe this fellow died to cover up corruption and not the payment by quality system. Lets see where it goes from here but on this occassion the security forces have my vote to kick ass and keep law and order in this land.