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Bad weather and lack of workers has Costa Maya sugarcane harvest lagging behind schedule

Costa Maya, Q.R. — After around two months into the 2023-2024 sugarcane harvest, Costa Maya producers say they are behind due to bad weather and a lack of workers. Benjamín Gutiérrez Reyes, leader of the National Confederation of Rural Producers (CNPR), says they are around 100,000 tons behind on sugarcane cutting from where they should be by this time in their harvest due to ongoing cold fronts.

Reyes says the problems they are facing in the sector could cause a failure to reach projected figures of 1.9 million tons for the season adding that a shortage of labor is also a factor.

“There are delays in the field due to weather conditions such as cold fronts that have had a negative impact on the development of sugarcane cultivation and have caused a delay of at least 100,000 tons compared to previous years.

“Right now, just over 80 days after the start of the harvest, the progress is only 336,000 tons and logically this generates concern among producers because it could cause us to not reach the estimated goal for the 2023-2024 harvest by not complying with the daily fee,” explained the Confederación Nacional de Productores Rurales (CNPR) leader.

The sugarcane leader stated that although there is confidence that the climate will improve, they also suffer from a lack of labor. He says many hired hands have take jobs with the Tren Maya project, which has left them scrambling to meet projected deadlines.

He says they cannot hire more cutters and machine operators since the vast majority have preferred Maya Train employment even though they have raised salaries to be equally competitive.

“There are no workers who want to join the cane cutting and help us regularize the delay that exists. The Maya Train has left us not only without cutters, but also without machinery operators.

“The call we made to hire more did not have the response we expected, although we have tried to improve salaries but it is a difficult situation that worries us a lot.”

Reyes says they are working with the 1,300 cutters they have verses the 3,500 need. He says they have 400 trucks, 70 lifters and 25 tractors that are working full speed to fulfill the projected harvest, which will last until May weather permitting.