By Cristal Romo
Caribbean News Now contributor
BELMOPAN, Belize -- American Sugar Refining, the world's largest sugar refining company, has become the majority shareholder of Belize Sugar Industries (BSI), the chief supplier of Fair Trade-certified sugar globally.
American Sugar acquired a majority of BSI, while the company's previous shareholders, including BSI Employee Holdings Limited, continue to hold the remaining shares.
"The BSI acquisition presented an opportunity to expand our sugar business by acquiring a majority interest in a key supplier of raw and direct consumption sugars to our refineries," said Luis Fernandez, co-president of American Sugar. "We plan to invest in the company and utilize our employees' depth of sugar expertise to expand BSI's operations and efficiencies in order to increase supplies of raw sugar and value-added Fair Trade and specialty sugars to our operations to meet consumer demand."
BSI owns the only sugar mill in Belize, which crushed more than a million tons of sugar cane and produced 114,000 tons of sugar in its most recent crop. The company directly employs nearly 500 people and farms 4,000 acres of cane. BSI is a vital member of the local economy, as it also processes the cane of 6,000 independent growers, who farm roughly 55,000 acres.
All of the farms qualify for the Fair Trade certification, which provides additional compensation to local farmers and helps foster sustainable businesses and communities. BSI and its independent farmers are the largest employers in Belize.
BSI produces raw sugar, demerara specialty sugars and white sugar. While the white sugar is sold within the domestic market, more than 85 percent of the company's total production is exported as raw sugar to the EU and US markets or as demerara to the UK and Canadian markets.
American Sugar and its parent companies – Florida Crystals Corporation and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida – own and operate ten sugar refineries and five sugar mills, located in New York, Maryland, Louisiana, California, Florida, Canada, Mexico, England, Portugal and the Dominican Republic.
"We look forward to partnering with the employees and farmers in Belize to use our technological and agricultural know-how to aid them in increasing their cane production and raw sugar output," said Antonio Contreras, co-president of American Sugar. "Our group is the ideal partner to do this, because we already run farming, milling and refining operations in six different countries."
BSI also operates a 30 MW biomass cogeneration plant that produces and sells renewable electricity to the Belize power grid, supplying a quarter of the country's electricity.