As the 1990s began, sugar was still the Belizean economy's single largest export earner. Sugar production involved a unique hybrid of agricultural and industrial activity. Sugarcane cultivation, on one hand, and the mechanicalchemical transformation of cane into sugar, on the other hand, made for this peculiarity. Both processes needed to be coordinated because of the perishability of the crop.
In Belize small farms in the north produce the bulk of the sugarcane. In the early 1990s, the coordination of the agricultural aspects of sugar production and the organization of cane delivery were the responsibilities of the Cane Farmers' Association. The industrial segment of the sugar-production process was controlled by Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSIL). Overall coordination of the industry was exercised by the Belize Sugar Board.
Until 1985 Belize had two sugar mills: the Libertad factory in the Corozal District, opened in 1937, and the factory at Tower Hill near Orange Walk Town, opened in 1967. In July 1985, the Libertad factory was closed. By early 1989, Libertad had been reopened and leased to the Jamaican petroleum company Petrojam. Petrojam was to use Libertad for the production of molasses, which was then to be refined in Jamaica into ethanol. Ethanol had duty-free access to the United States market under the CBI arrangement.
The Belizean sugar industry, as elsewhere in the Caribbean, experienced large production and export swings. In 1981 an estimated 30 percent of farmland, formerly used for growing sugarcane, had been abandoned. Yet, at the end of the 1980s, the United States increased its quota for Belize at the expense of Guyana, which was not reaching its allotment, and in early 1990, BSIL reported its largest-ever bulk shipment (17,300 tons of raw sugar) to Canada.
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