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AALP Class 13 International Study Tour to Guatemala and Belize - March 4 & 5, 2011

March 4, 2011 - The second last day of our AALP class’s International Study Tour began with a farewell to Chaa Creek and a hello again to Tropic Air. A fantastic day for flying enabled our three planes to take the scenic route from Central Farm to Orange Walk, passing over the famous Routa Maya, a 175 mile, 3 day canoe race through Belize and to loop around a couple more Mayan Temples.

We were greeted at Orange Walk by the Chairman of the Board from the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA), Mr. Alfredo Ortega, directors of the board and newly hired CEO Oscar Alonzo. During a three-hour presentation we learned about the past, present and future of the sugar cane industry of Belize. Some of us were able to draw comparisons with the BSCFA to our Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) and the transitions they have had in the past few years. The BSCFA has two main growing and processing regions in northern Belize and represent 6,000 growers, producing a total of 60,000 acres of cane. The average yield of cane in Belize is 15 tons per acre, which is 1.7 tons of raw sugar. The sugar cane industry is based on a fair trade marketing system, believed to be the best option for the growers here in Belize. In Belize 88 to 90% of the cane is marketed through fair trade and the remainder is used locally. The cane contracts are based out of the EU on a 50,000 ton basis which includes a 60$ US premium under the fair trade agreement. The $60 goes directly to the BSCFA to support their health and safety program, cane quality and environmental footprint reduction programs. They are also focusing on a pesticide safety program similar to Ontario and also on better water quality programs. The BSCFA is in the best shape it has been in a long time and they are convinced of a bright, more environmentally friendly and prosperous future. We then had the opportunity to visit a sugar cane field ready for harvest and to taste test the sweet product.

The class then traveled to Belize City and enjoyed a farewell dinner at the Riverside Restaurant. Where we toasted Rambo and Jose and thanked them for all their help and guiding on this two week travelling adventure.

March 5, 2011 - Our tour of Belize city was cut short due to travel restrictions, therefore Saturday morning was a chance for reflecting on our trip and catching a few last rays before heading to the airport for flight numbers 7 and 8.

AALP Class 13 would like to thank everyone involved in putting this trip together and making it and unforgettable and once in a lifetime experience. Thank-You

Gunther Csoff, Henry Lise, Drew Spoelstra – AALP Class 13

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