5 Do’s to a Good Harvesting Plan

We are sure you all know when a mango is ripe and ready to harvest. It will usually look red and yellow, soft and have a sweet smell. However, how can we know when sugarcane is ready to harvest? Can we decide if it is mature enough for harvesting based on how the plant looks? Or do we consider sugarcane ready to harvest whenever our harvesting group leader says it is our turn to harvest? In order to determine when it is best to harvest sugarcane, farmers are encouraged to create a harvesting plan for their sugarcane fields based on five do’s: variety of cane, last date harvested (how old the cane is), maturity or purity of standing cane, location and numbers of acres ready for harvest. But why are these five do’s important? Let us take a look:

1. The variety of cane planted – Each type of variety planted has a different “best time” for harvesting. It is therefore important for you to know if the variety of sugarcane you plant is an early, mid or late maturing variety. For example CP722086 is an early maturing variety while B79474 is a mid to late maturing variety. Also, different varieties have different adaptabilities to a broad range of conditions including the ability to grow on high or lowlands and their vulnerability to pests and diseases.


2. Last date harvested – By keeping a log of the dates when fields were harvested will allow you to know the age of cane in each individual field. It is recommended to harvest cane with a maturity index closest to 100%. If you have sugarcane which you couldn’t harvest for the last crop season (standing cane), it is important for you to know its location and maturity at the start of the new crop season. Standing cane can be “over-mature” or past the “best time” for harvesting at the start of the crop season. If you harvest “over-mature” cane, it will affect the quality of cane you deliver and ultimately the price you receive per ton of cane.


3. Location (low, mid or high terrain) – Weather during the crop season varies. It is important to harvest low-lying fields during dry weather and target high-lying fields during the rainy season to ensure the continued ability to harvest cane and to reduce the amount of mud delivered to the mill.

4. Fields ready for harvest (maturity and purity) – These can be determined by conducting a pre-harvesting sampling. A simple tool such as a refractometer can help in determining the brix and calculate maturity index of sugar cane of your different fields ( see graphic on right-handside on how to calculate maturity index); If interested in a more in-depth sampling, you can also arrange for a test at BSI’s spectracane laboratory where the brix, pol, moisture, fiber and purity of your field’s sugar cane will be calculated.


5. Number of acres to harvest - By determining the number of acres ready to harvest for each week during the crop, you can have a smoother harvesting operation by knowing the amount of cutters, machinery and finance you need for each week.


Posted on June 12, 2017 .

5 Million Euros Available to the Industry under EU-AMS Program

Like farmers from many other developing countries, sugarcane farmers, in the north of Belize, face many barriers to agriculture financing. These barriers include ease of access to affordable financing and also access at affordable interest rates among others. Over the years, agriculture financing has remained a major concern because it limits efforts to increase productivity, modernization and also diversification. In response to these challenges, a portion of the interventions funded by the European Union-Accompanying Measures for Sugar Program (EU-AMS) makes monies available under the Sugar Cane Replanting Program (SCRP). Actually, the SCRP is one of the largest components of the EU-AMS offering a grant of 6.5 million Euros to the country of Belize. 5 million Euros of these funds is available to farmers and once drawn down will form a revolving fund administered by the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) offering loans for replanting and ratoon maintenance. To become a part of the revolving fund, however, these funds need to be utilized by 17 April 2018 otherwise these will be returned to the EU. Unfortunately these funds are not being accessed for the following reasons: (i) farmers are already committed financially with commercial banks; (ii) there is lack of coordination with the availability of funds with farming activities; (iii) farmers view the DFC loans process as inflexible.

However, the DFC has been working diligently to change that perception among industry
stakeholders and has made significant changes to the terms and conditions initially established for the SCRP funds. As a result the EU-AMS-SCRP remains potentially beneficial to the sugar industry for the following reasons: (i) loans offered are at a low 6% interest rate; (ii) repayment period is 7 years (iii) funds can serve as a cushion for farmers in this critical year (iv) when funds are disbursed these will be monitored for proper use by the DFC; (v) DFC is coordinating with the Sugar Industry Research & Development Institute (SIRDI) to provide technical support.
The sugar cane industry however, faces many challenges – one very critical one is the changes to the current EU sugar regime that will soon bring an end to the preferential prices that Belize enjoys.

The main players in this industry have been repeatedly warned about finding ways to become competitive, particularly the cane farmers, in finding ways to cut down on production costs. Furthermore this is the last assistance of any kind that the sugar industry will receive from the
EU. Farmers are encouraged to check with the local DFC offices in the North and also the La Inmaculada Credit Union (LICU) and Saint Francis Xavier Credit Union to take advantage of the SCRP funds under the new terms and conditions.

Contributor: William Neal, Susana Castillo

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

UK Cooperative Group Visits BSCFA - Affirms their Impact in Cane Farmer Communities through FT Premiums

BSCFA’s Youth Inclusive Community Based Monitoring and Remediation Program (YICBMR) in collaboration with Fairtrade International is a new inclusive methodology which brings together adults, children and youth to have a say in the way they can make a difference to make their communities safer for them and their children. This program has attracted the attention of Mr. Brad Hill, Fairtrade Strategy Manager from The Co-operative Group of the UK. In the month of November, 2016, he visited Belize to acquaint himself with the work being done by the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association, such as their programmes and projects supported with the premium received from sales of Fairtrade sugar. He was also accompanied by Mrs. Julia Clark, Head of Sugar Ethics from Tate & Lyle Sugars/ASR Group. Brad expressed pleasure to see that through YICBMR focus group sessions, various community projects have been implemented. He interacted with the families of children and youth, and the youth themselves who expressed much gratitude for the assistance they have received from BSCFA supporting them to go back to primary school, high school or other vocational studies. Giving these youth a second chance at building a brighter future for themselves was the highlight of his trip.

He was also able to appreciate the sustainability of the projects from the partnerships of BSCFA and Centro Escolar Mexico Junior College which are opening new areas where future assistance to youth that are unable to formally attend college will learn the basic agricultural best practices useful for their future. During his visit, Brad was also able to comprehend how some successful alternative income generation projects for women have significantly impacted the life of both of these women and their families helping to ensure their children remain in school.

The Co-operative Group has many retail stores in UK, being the first retailers to sell only Fairtrade sugar. The Co-operative, as being expressed by Mr. Brad Hill, is committed to supporting sugar farmers in Belize especially in these challenging times.

Contributor: Zune Canche

“The members and customers of Co-op in the UK are always keen to hear how making Fairtrade purchases supports farmers and workers. Because we sell only Fairtrade sugar, I wanted to be able to see for myself the work in Belize and be able to tell people back home the difference Fairtrade is making . I met some wonderful people and heard some fantastic stories during my visit to Belize and I was very impressed with the work that BSCFA are doing, particularly with youth empowerment and alternative income generation projects. We will keep telling the farmer and community stories and hope to inspire our customers to buy even more Fairtrade sugar. Thank you to all at BSCFA for your hospitality during my visit and showing me the power of Fairtrade on communities and on farmers. Keep up with the great work!” - Brad Hill

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

CSCPA and the Belize Mission Project provide Medical Assistance to Farmers and their Families

The Corozal Sugar Cane Producers Association (CSCPA) under its Social Program commitment invited The Belize Mission Project to conduct free of cost medical assistance to member cane farmers and their families. The Mission Project consists of foreign doctors from the USA with different specialization. The program was carried out jointly with the St. Francis Xavier Credit
Union and Presbyterian Clinic in Patchakan Village. It was a two week program whereby farmers and their families received special treatment in fluorides, dental and audiology. The fluoride program was directed at the primary school level where over 4,000 children in the
different primary schools of the district were treated.

The program was well received by all who participated and which created high level of expectations for the program to be repeated in the subsequent years ahead. The CSCPA extends its appreciation to Mr. David Akierman who was very instrumental in attracting the
Belize Mission Project and its success; also special recognition goes to the St. Francis Xavier Credit Union and its Leadership Mr. Rafael Dominguez and Mr. Michael Riverol. The CSCPA Board of Directors and Staff were directly responsible in executing the program and its
effectiveness. The CSCPA recognizes that such social programs are crucially important under the livelihood program being promoted in the rural areas of our district.

Contributor: Leonardo Folgarait

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

PSCPA Embarks on Projects and Trainings to Protect the Environment and Enhance the Quality of Life of Farmers!

1. PSCPA signs Agreement with BSCFA for Joint Pilot on Child Labor Monitoring: Joint Pilot between BSCFA and PSCPA is currently underway in the sugar cane farming community of Guinea Grass, where both producer associations have a significant amount of members. Joint Pilot will be done using Fairtrade International’s model of child labor monitoring and remediation; both BSCFA and PSCPA will work together to mitigate child labor risk in its sugarcane production. As part of the Joint Pilot, PSCPA staff received a one day training on January 7th, 2017 from BSCFA and Fairtrade International on applicable Fairtrade Standards and YICBM&R Methodology.

2. Safety measures for handling, transporting and disposing chemicals: PSCPA is verycommitted in enhancing and building the knowledge of our farmers through capacity training. We are working on trainings for farmers to highlight the importance of handing chemicals safely. If used properly, pesticides can help to protect farmers’ sugarcane crop. However, if used incorrectly, these chemicals have the potential of causing serious harm to people and the environment. Farmers are therefore advised to use pesticides in the most safe &  environmentally-friendly manner.

3. Biological Control- Integrated Pest Management: All farmers practice some type of Integrated Pest Management through normal crop production practices. PSCPA is offering trainings to its 4 zones on best pest managing practices. PSCPA’s aim is to prepare farmers with the necessary knowledge and practice on how to best control specific pests. This involves taking action to anticipate pest outbreaks and to prevent potential damage. The goal of these trainings is to prevent pests from reaching economically or damaging levels with
the least risk to the environment.

Contributor: Abihail Pech

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

Are we Feeding our Sugarcane the Right Nutrients?

Plant nutrition forms the basis of a healthy productive crop. Plants get this through three ways: nutrients present in the soil, recycling of nutrients (such as dead leaves falling back to the soil) and through the application of fertilizers. Sugarcane consumes both large and small amounts of nutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are examples of three elements consumed in large amounts (known as macronutrients). Magnesium, boron and iron are examples of elements consumed in small amounts (known as micronutrients).

SIRDI, with the assistance from the European Union, conducted a field soil and crop review study last year. Soil samples were selected from twenty five sites representative of the sugar
industry. Each site was carefully selected to represent a soil type.

Nitrogen deficiency in the leaf means that insufficient nitrogen is reaching the roots of sugarcane plants. The causes of Nitrogen deficiency are high because our soils are basic
(sugarcane prefers slightly acidic soils instead of basic soils), the high levels of calcium in soil and the forms of fertilizer application. Traditionally, fertilizers used in the sugar industry are urea based: Urea-based fertilizers, which contain nitrogen, are very inclined to nutrient loss through volatilization. This is loss is made quicker through the high pH and high Calcium concentration in the soil. Most farmers use fertilizers that do not contain Potassium. The most common are 18-46-0, 28-28-0, 46-0-0 and 34-18-0. All of these fertilizers have zero potassium,
represented by the zero at the end of each blend. This has severely depleted potassium soil reserves and consequently, the leaf analysis has shown severe deficiencies. It is important that the industry nutritional program includes high levels of potassium to correct the Potassium deficiency.

To correct the problem, farmers are encouraged to switch to ammonium nitrate or better
yet, ammonium sulfate based fertilizers. Ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulfate are much
less inclined to volatilization and are taken in faster by the soil. Ammonium sulfate can also
correct the 1/3 of the industry that is showing sulfur deficiencies. The sulfate will also, with
continuous use, lower the soil pH to desirable levels.

Contributor: Adrian Zetina

Posted on June 12, 2017 .

How Weather Affects Sugar Cane Production & Operations

The graph shows rainfall recorded at Tower Hill from 2012 to February 19th 2017. As can be noted, there was a sharp decrease in rainfall in November 2016 of 199.6 mm when compared to rainfall of November 2015. Weather conditions were optimal for the start of the crop season in December 2016. However, as the month progressed there were several showers and periods of rain; this increased rainfall in December by 35.3 mm. Rainfall was therefore slightly higher in December 2016 when compared to December 2015 and 2014. Rainfall for January 2017 was a total of 35.40 mm of rain. February saw a sharp decrease in rain improving weather conditions for the continuous harvesting and milling of cane for this year’s crop season.

The graph shows rainfall recorded at Tower Hill from 2012 to February 19th 2017. As can be noted, there was a sharp decrease in rainfall in November 2016 of 199.6 mm when compared to rainfall of November 2015. Weather conditions were optimal for the start of the crop season in December 2016. However, as the month progressed there were several showers and periods of rain; this increased rainfall in December by 35.3 mm. Rainfall was therefore slightly higher in December 2016 when compared to December 2015 and 2014. Rainfall for January 2017 was a total of 35.40 mm of rain. February saw a sharp decrease
in rain improving weather conditions for the continuous harvesting and milling of cane for this year’s crop season.

Posted on June 12, 2017 .