Thursday, February 5, 2009

Of Cliffs and Cane

I’m only a relatively uninformed bystander watching what increasingly appears to be the economic version of a headlong stampede toward the cliff’s edge. 

Let the above statement serve as my disclaimer. I am hereby freely acknowledging that I know nada about sugar cane and the cultivation thereof -I don't say 'growth' because I think that word applies (or should apply) more accurately to the industry currently under vigorous discussion. So, unlike many people out there, this is me not pretending to know what I don’t know. 

However, I am curious about how we turn back from this looming disaster when the main beneficiaries seem ever more cemented in their position.  When I listen to Mr Magana, for example, I hear the sound of engines revving instead of tires screeching.  No brakes, no u-turns up to now, and the cliff's edge is ever closer.

In a way, I guess standing on the sidelines may afford me a better view of what is going on, though there are also elements one misses by seeing the whole forest and not individual trees.  What I do know is this: we have an endangered industry, and this lee argument puts it that much closer to extinction.

I'd like to know a few things about the way forward, and for ease of reference I've listed them below, carefully numbered and not at all indexed by importance, chronology or alphabet:
  1. Is the Core Sampler truly the root of all evil? I feel the need to capitalize the name, because this seemingly offensive piece of equipment appears to have taken on a life of its own, and may yet go the way of Gapi's t-shirt, that is, be burnt in effigy. Seriously though, doesn't this thing have some use once we cure it of its alleged propensity to tell nasty little fibs on innocent sugarcane? Like, say, data collection?
  2. If Nemencio Acosta is to be fired, how will this help the industry? What was his offense? Who should replace him, and why that person? Who the heck is Nemencio Acosta, and why'd his mom call him that? Must've caught hell in school, true? Schoolyard bullies can be so cruel... Will his replacement have a better name? I fancy something like...Alvaro, or Placido maybe.
  3. Is this business of pushing quality over quantity for cane production a 'red' herring? I mean, just because the EU, numerous trading partners, Tate & Lyle, dozens of Belizean experts, and both the last government and this one say that failure to improve quality will mean the end of the industry, that doesn't make it true, does it? Because everybody knows the EU consists of a bunch of pranksters who never really mean what they say. They send out these goofy memos between rounds of Pin the Tail on the Ex-colony, that sort of thing.
  4. Okay, the last one was a low blow. I'm sure that Mr Magana and his brethren are aware that they have to change their ways -I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in generous helpings, but wasn't that where the Fairtrade money was to have come in useful? What's the story behind Fairtrade anyway? Hey, they make pretty good chocolate though; you can get some at, they aren't sponsoring the blog, but if you could forward this to them, maybe...
  5. If the core sampler is sent on its merry way, and if the farmers concede that improving quality is the way forward, and if Fairtrade, or the EU, or my Fairy Godmother (who really is too old to be wearing tutus...but I digress) make funds available for this quality improvement business (you're counting the ifs, I hope), then what is the acceptable measure and compensation for quality that will reward the farmer who improves his crop?  I mean, there's gotta be something that won't send the guys back to the dump for more old tires, right?
I'll leave it there for now, as I, like the rest of non-agricultural Belize, continue to watch the endless sequels of this saga. I am, I will tell you, perched on the edge of my ratty old recliner each night, watching that cliff get closer...and closer...


  1. You said it all. Love the 'puns'.
    Am looking forward to a sequel.

  2. Everyone...EVERYONE needs to wake up and smell the bagass burning. If we act in time and sensibly and in unity, and with vision..and (and i'm counting my ands..) we might be able to be prevent a smoldering mess and be competitive..and keep food in farmers' (and their families')bellies.