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Minister explains need for measured sugar price increase

Minister of Agriculture Hon. Jose Mai, during a Special Sitting of the House of Representatives on May 30th, 2024, called for a measured, data-driven increase in sugar prices in response to Belize's shortage.

Mai emphasized that any price adjustments must be informed by thorough analysis to ensure they are justified and equitable.

He explained that the change in the price must be approached with careful consideration of the data to avoid unnecessary burden on consumers while addressing the supply issues. The Minister highlighted the current crisis in Mexico, where extreme weather has severely affected sugar production, exacerbating the shortage and influencing regional prices.

Addressing the House, Mai outlined the significant price differentials between Belize's locally produced sugar and the prices in neighboring Mexico. He noted that Belize's brown sugar is sold at 34 cents per pound at the mill, with a controlled price of 39 cents per pound, while Mexico's brown sugar is priced at $1.70 per pound.

For plantation white sugar, Belize's price is 75 cents per pound, compared to Mexico's price of over $2 per pound . "It is easier for a wholesaler to come to the mill, pay 34 cents, and halfway down the road, we meet a truck with Guatemalan plate and all I do is unload and sell that same sugar which he bought for 34 cents at one dollar per pound," Mai explained.

Corozal North Area Representative Hugo Patt had earlier underscored the urgency of the situation, pointing to the critical need for a strategy that ensures local market stability without compromising affordability for Belizean households. Mai's response underscored a balanced approach, insisting that any price hikes would be modest and directly tied to empirical evidence of necessity.

Mai also detailed the logistical and economic challenges faced by local wholesalers and retailers, noting that the current pricing structure does not account for transportation and operational costs.

The Minister pointed out that the last price increase for sugar in Belize was in 2014 and was not thoroughly studied, which has led to minimal profit margins for those in the business. "We must ensure that the price increase is based on the cost of production, not just on the higher prices in Mexico and Guatemala," he asserted.

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