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A tractor hauls loads of sugar cane in Belize. (File photo)

Belize sugar production declines as drought, COVID impact industry

A tractor hauls loads of sugar cane in Belize. (File photo)

The Belize Sugar Industries (BSI) is reporting a decrease in production at the end of this year’s sugar season that had been beset by an extended drought period as well as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Sugar production in Belize was impacted by coronavirus and ongoing drought/

“We managed to mill 893, 000 and a bit more metric tonnes of cane. We managed to produce a little below 88,000 tonnes of sugar. We saw also the reduction of the size of cane which somehow caused a bit of more mud, dirt or a bit of more extraneous material to come in and so we had a number of challenges that we had to cope with as a result of the climate really.

“We come from a very good crop and a record high crop in sugar, in cane in quality to a record low …so we have to learn to adapt to the changes in weather,” said Olivia Avilez, the BSI Cane Farmer Relations Manager.

“We have to look at what transpired…to start to put in mitigating measures and start to adapt to the new conditions and unforeseen and unpredictable conditions.”

– Olivia Avilez, the BSI Cane Farmer Relations Manager

She said this year’s crop faced a myriad of challenges including the devastating drought in 2019.

“We saw the impacts of an extended drought that we had last year in 2019 and we know for a fact that climate change is real and we are really seeing the risk of climate change.

“It is not just drought because with drought comes other things. We had pests, newer pests that we weren’t used to controlling before, things like stem bore that had an impact on the cane quality,” she added.

But despite the challenges, Avilez said hopes are high for the next crop season especially since lessons learned are now being used to develop and implement mitigating measures.

“We are happy in the end that we were able to get through this crop together. We had a meeting with the farmers a while ago and we were talking about all the challenges, all the things that we have to do to mitigate these conditions. Who can control the weather?

“We have to look at what transpired, everything from the last details to start to put in mitigating measures and start to adapt to the new conditions and unforeseen and unpredictable conditions,” she added.