Mechanical Harvesting Field Day!

A group of farmers gathered on February 5th 2016 at one of SIRDI’s research fields where they were shown a mechanical harvesting in operation and learnt how this harvesting option can be conducted.

The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institue (SIRDI), in collaboration with BSI’s Agriculture Department through its Cane Growing Project, organized the field day and learning session. The event took place with the aim of showcasing mechanical harvesting as a viable option for sugar cane farmers in northern Belize and to share with farmers BSI’s own experience with mechanical harvesting gathered to date. After the demonstration, an interactive presentation was organized by Enrique Rivas, Research Agronomist in charge of BSI’s harvesting operations and Adrian Zetina, SIRDI’s Research Coordinator to share with farmers some of the key requirements, explain the cost benefits of the operation and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such an operation. The mechanical harvester contractor, Angel Torres of Northern Enterprise Company Ltd. and his field staff were on hand to answer questions about how the units operate and factors that contribute to the cost per ton. They indicated that depending on distance of field and volume of cane, the objective of this harvesting & delivery system is to reduce costs and increase farmer income.

While discussing efficiency of the operation, it was indicated that mechanical harvesting does not have to mean replacing cane cutters but to complement their work in the industry. In light of the drop in sugar prices in 2017, the aim of venturing into mechanical harvesting is for cane farmers to become both sustainable and competitive. In sugar industries around the globe, fully mechanized harvesting is employed. This type of harvesting system can allow farmers to lower their production costs. The full potential savings from mechanization is only possible if
the fields are properly prepared for mechanization. To use such system with such capacity, large continuous areas with sufficient tonnage are needed to justify its mobilization. Other important considerations include a freer access to the mill and full utilization of cane transport units.

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

SIRDI's Background and Field School

SIRDI Background

SIRDI is a Research and Development Institute in the Belize Sugar Industry with more than 5000 registered farmers. It is actively engaged in developing innovative, environmentally sustainable production technologies and disseminating these eco-friendly systems to the farming community.

The large group of farmers makes outreach programs complex. SIRDI has found that the Farmer Field School (FFS) program, a hands on approach, is extremely effective at building capacity and exciting farmers about substituting old inefficient practices with new technologies. SIRDI is embarking on a new partnership with Hershey’s who is contributing 250,000 USD to its Farmer Field School through its Learn to Grow Program.

SIRDI is enthusiastic about this new partnership as it will highlight to farmers the linkage between producing high quality sustainable sugar cane and high end products such as Hershey’s chocolates.

The SIRDI Farmer Field School Perspective

The Farmer Field School is implemented by SIRDI’s highly trained extension team in 6 geographical zones in the northern sugar belt. The team selects 6 accessible and visible field plots belonging to participating farmers in the areas. The team recruits and registers 25 farmers per site and evaluates their current practices to establish a base line.

The FFS program commences in December of each year and runs for a period of 24 months following the crop cycle. The farmer students attend 11 hands-on field sessions that cover best practices in Sugar Cane Cultivation.

Throughout the program the participating farmers are monitored for the practices they conduct in their own fields to determine the adoption rate along with the cost benefit analysis.



Posted on June 12, 2017 .

PSCPA: Implementing Fairtrade Programmes!

As part of the Fairtrade Premium which the Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association has received, meetings with the different zones have been carried out to discuss plans on how this money will be effectivley used by the different zones of the Association. Below are some of the programmes which have been implemented by PSCPA under the Fairtrade Premium:

  • Elderly Program: Three Zones of the association decided they would be allocating a portion of their premium to members with ages 65 and above. A total of 83 members who met this criteria received assistance under the Elderly Program. Monies were used by these farmers to mostly assist them with medical, grocery and household expenses.
  • Educational Program: 533 members from three zones of the association, who appeared under the 2015 Deliver Registry, have received a package of school supplies which includes
    notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners and erasers. These school supply packages have greatly assisted them to reduce overall school expenses of their children.
  • Environmental Program: On March 21st, 2016 PSCPA Environmental Officer Ms. MarlaQuetzal along with the support of Mrs. Olivia Avilez, BSI Cane Farmers Relations Manager, conducted a training on developing an Environmental Internal Control Systems for Fairtrade Standards. Attendees at the training, learnt and discussed on standards which will be used by the association to monitor field production practices as it relates to health and environmental safety.
Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Sugar Cash for Sugar Trash?

These are simple yet effective management technologies which can be adopted to improve sugar cane productivity. One farmer from the Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association adopting an innovative and cost-effective technology is David Akierman. He is using a neat trash lining implement and some good effective microorganisms to turn his post-harvest residue into cash.

According to Akierman, for farmers to become more competitive and sustainable they need to engage in smart cost-benefit activities. He has realized that by managing his trash correctly he can get several cost-saving benefits:

1) When he lines up his trash neatly it acts as a mat (or mulch) which prevents weeds from growing in that area.
2) Using Effective Micro Organisms (EM) helps the trash to break down into nutrients and protects the natural soil conditions as well as the soil moisture in the area therefore resulting in better soil structure for sugar cane growth.

If farmers want to adopt this practice, Akierman advices them to:


  • Wait at least 10 days before trash lining the residue; the drier the trash, the easier it is to line-up.
  • Add effective microorganisms (produced inhouse or bought locally) to their fields; this will aid in decomposing the organic matter more rapidly and is beneficial to the growth of the plants.

Akierman is currently collecting data from his 300 acres and is sharing this information with the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI), the technical arm of the industry. A number of David’s fellow farmers are now catching up to the benefits of this practice that will not only save them money but is also environmentally responsible.


Posted on June 12, 2017 .

BSI Conducts Telephone Etiquette and Professionalism in the Workplace Training Sessions


At Belize Sugar Industries Limited, employee development and participation is an important element in improving professional services provided to all our stakeholders.

With this in mind, Susana M. Castillo, Executive Assistant to the CFO at BSI, conducted a telephone etiquette and professionalism in the workplace training sessions for the months of April and September 2015 respectively. These sessions were arranged for various departments
particularly the Accounts, Stores, Belcogen, Agriculture and Security employees. The goal of these sessions were for employees to be reminded that as service departments we play a key and important role in providing an effective and professional interface between company and stakeholders. Stakeholders include employees, cane farmers, suppliers, contractors, banks Government departments and the community.

Training certificates of completion were provided to the BSI Security employees. BSI Security stood proudly (see right-hand images) in front of their newly assigned parking spot located on the left hand side of the factory entrance.

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Safety Awareness for Cane Truck Drivers at the Cane Yard


While truck drivers are most in tune with the safe operation on the roads and highways, the safety of cane trucks/tractor trailers and container trucks in the factory compound should not be overlooked. These vehicles are operated in areas surrounding the cane yard with pedestrians nearby. There are often many of these vehicles in operation at once. The combination of these factors can make the work environment very dangerous. Awareness is the key to the prevention of vehicular accidents and injuries in this area.

The most common hazard in the operation of these vehicles in the area of the cane yard is the danger of collision with other vehicles or workers on foot. A driver must be highly aware of the presence of workers on foot at all times and they must also be aware of other vehicles moving around.

Some specific safety guidelines to help minimize the risk of accident or injury are:

  • Head and tail lights and emergency flashers should be in working condition at all times so that you are visible to other workers at all times.
  • Obey all posted speed limits.
  • Never operate the vehicle above the posted speed limit. Be prepared to slow to a stop if necessary.
  • Pay attention at all times.
  • Respect yield signs.

Coupling and uncoupling are skills basic to tractor/trailer operations. The consequences
of improper coupling can result in driver injury and damage to equipment. Be careful and
take your time to safely complete the process.
Truck drivers need to be properly attired. A reflective vest and proper foot wear is

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

From Sugar Cane, to Sugar Crystals



The Massecuite generated from the crystallization process is a mixture of sugar crystals and molasses, which needs to be separated in order for the sugar crystals to be obtained. The solid and liquid portions of the massecuite are separated by means of sugar curing equipment known as sugar centrifugals. These centrifugals have baskets with a perforated screen on the inner surface and revolve at very high speeds. The centrifugal force generated by the revolution of the basket allows for the liquid molasses to pass through the perforated screen while the
sugar crystals are retained on the inside of the screen. The resulting sugar is discharged into conveyors and is then conveyed to a sugar dryer for conditioning of the sugar.

The sugar then passes through a scale for weighing and is then conveyed to the bagging area for packaging in the case of Direct Consumption sugars or to the bulk storage shed in the case of Raw sugar. The Direct Consumption sugars are either sold locally or exported abroad. The Raw Sugar is exported for further refining abroad. The molasses from which most of the available sugar has been extracted is called “Final Molasses”. This product is also exported and a small amount is sold locally for the manufacture of rum or as cattle feed.

1. Preparation
2. Extraction
3. Clarification
4. Evaporation
5. Crystallization
6. Separation


Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Mechanical Harvesting Field Day (Lessons Learnt)!

In order for a Mechanical Harvesting Project to work the following points must be considered:

1. The chopper harvester has the potential of cutting 400-600 tons per day. If the harvester is to be economically feasible, the minimum it requires to cut is 200 tons per day at 30-60 tons per hour.
2. The chopper harvester can harvest both green (unburnt) and burnt cane. It must be clear that machine cut cane will in most cases be lower in quality than hand cut, but fresher. The increase in efficiency should offset any reduction in quality.
3. Fields need to be 1.8 meter straight, symmetric and uniformly spaced rows free of stumps and rocks.
The key to mechanical operations is uniformity. Cultivation is not flat but slightly bedded.
4. Land needs to be flat (less than or equal to 8-10% slope).
5. A full track chopper harvester needs a Low-Boy to transport it to the location of cutting. Rubber tire models are more mobile but less stable.
6. During cutting the chopper harvester requires a tractor and tipping trailer or to feed directly into a truck.
7. Billeted cane requires rapid kill to mill to avoid deterioration. Billeted cane deteriorates faster than long stick due to the surface area exposed. Trucks should avoid long waits at the queue. Billet loads have higher density which equals to less ventilation.
8. A harvesting schedule needs to be carefully planned to be able to harvest cane with the highest maturity.
9. The cost is to be determined by the contractor for specific fields as it is based on several factors.
10. The harvester has several important adjustments. Some of these will be done during idle season repairs and others ongoing and in accordance to field conditions (angle, base cutter blades, feed roller speeds, base cutter height, billet size, primary and secondary extractor fan rpm, and forward ground speed). It is clear that field conditions and cane lodging are site specific and therefore the machine operator must respond accordingly.


Posted on June 12, 2017 .

BSCFA hosts First Stakeholder Meeting “Working Together to Eliminate Child Labour in Sugar Production” – Partnering for Action and Results

The Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association (BSCFA) has been arduously working with its members to address aspects of child labour in its sugar cane farming communities. Through various awareness campaigns, farmers have been exposed to terms such as “hazardous labour” and “ILO conventions”.

Today, the BSCFA has concrete data that farmers are choosing not to hire children and youth under the age of 18 years in the production and harvesting of their sugar cane. It is yet too soon to say that we have achieved elimination of child labour, nonetheless there have been some key lessons learnt from our experience in working with the communities, children and youth on responding to child labour. Recognizing the challenges ahead in working towards the elimination of child labour, BSCFA acknowledges that only by partnering with the government and other industry stakeholders for actions and results, we can move ahead to truly address child labour. Therefore, on January 14, 2016, BSCFA in collaboration with Fairtrade International and Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Comercio Justo (CLAC) hosted the first stakeholder meeting at the Inspiration Center in Belize City under the banner “Working Together to Eliminate Child Labour in Sugar Production – Partnering for Action and Results”.

There was participation from the Ministry of Labour, Department of Human Services, National Committee of Families and Children, UNICEF, Child Development Fund, Tate & Lyle Sugars/ASR Group, The Embassy of the United States of America, Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College, the Sugar Industry Research & Development Institute, Belize Sugar Industries Limited/ASR Group and the other two cane farmer associations, Progressive Sugar Cane Producers Association and Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association. In the opening remarks, BSCFA CEO, Mr. Oscar Alonzo emphasized that key lessons learnt from monitoring of child labour are that in order to address the root causes of child labour at household member level we MUST also focus on alternative income generation for youth and families, food security, youth unemployment and under employment and livelihoods targeting vulnerable household members. Also presented was general information on child labour, including recent findings published in 2015 of the National CAS Survey (2013), where both Corozal and Orange Walk were identified respectively with the highest rates of children’s employment in the country. Findings from BSCFA and FI joint pilot of the Youth Inclusive community based Monitoring and Remediation System (YICBMR) on Child Labour and remediation activities currently being worked on; and its plan is to scale its YICBMR system into second phase implementation through joint agreements with local expert partners.

Additionally, four project proposal summaries were presented:
a) An Education project whose main goal is to enable access
to quality and relevant education for out-of-school children
between the ages of 5 and 15 involved in child labour in sugar
production. This project also includes the prevention of new
children and youth from becoming involved in hazardous labour.
b) An Empowerment project that seeks to empower women to
address community well-being to ensure a healthy household
environment for children and youth.
c) A Protection project to respond to children’s and young
people’s identification of issues for their wellbeing by addressing
attitudes and social norms that enable them to become
d) Additionally, BSCFA proposed an advocacy project to work
within the Government National Action Plan for the Elimination
of Child Labour, industry and civil society to enable wider
stakeholder discussion and actions.

A successful first stakeholder meeting has now paved the way for further stakeholder discussion on Elimination of Child Labour for actions and results; and a proposed
second stakeholder meeting where work groups can update on their discussions and progress.

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Monthly Rainfall

The graph shows rainfall recorded at Tower Hill in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and up to March 28th 2016. As can be noted, the amount of rainfall recorded for December 2015 was 6.35 mm higher when compared to December 2014. These unfavorable weather conditions resulted in the delivery of high mud levels at the opening of the 2015/2016 crop season which affected milling operations and the delivery of quality cane.
For the month of January 2016 there was a
notable improvement in weather conditions
with only 12.7 mm of recorded rainfall. This
permitted mud levels to reach an acceptable
limit. However, as can be noted, there was
a sudden spike in rainfall for the month of
February 2016 of 83.10 mm. This once more led to wet conditions and the need to monitor the quality of cane being delivered to the mill. For the month of March there was a large decrease in rainfall of 55.3 mm which resulted in more favorable weather conditions for the harvesting and delivery of cane for this ongoing 2015/2016 crop season.


Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Summary Results Report on the SIMIS Phase 1 - Cane Under Production

The Sugar Industry Research & Development Institute (SIRDI) is the custodian of The Sugar Industry Management Information System (SIMIS). SIMIS is an industry tool being developed to continuously collect information at three levels: general farmer information, information about cane parcels and information generated by the mill throughout the crop season whilesimultaneously generating industry data. The information produced by SIMIS will be grounded in science and seeks to provide support for sound, strategic decision-making at all levels within the sugar industry. SIMIS is being implemented in phases and is heavily dependent on information from the three farmer associations, SCPC, BSI and SIRDI. Yet the sustainability of SIMIS is dependent on its utilization and adoption by members of the industry collectively, at all levels. Phase 1 has been completed and following are some infographics drawn from the data collected to date.


Posted on June 12, 2017 .