Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2018. 4:22 p.m. CST.
By BBN Staff: Information leaked to BBN earlier today is that the final green light was given for some 130 boxes of limes from Mexico to be released from the cargo section at the Belize/Mexico border in Santa Elena. The limes were allowed to enter Belize after being sprayed with Methyl Bromide, an ozone depleting fumigant which, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), is 60 times more destructive to the ozone layer than Chlorine or Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). In Belize, Methyl Bromide sale and use is prohibited but it is allowed for use in emergency quarantine and pre-shipment use, hence the reason why treatment was done on the Mexican side of the border.
The Belize Agriculture Health Authority had refused entry of the limes as they were found to be contaminated with insect eggs. Under normal conditions contaminated limes would have either been returned to the seller or destroyed at the port of entry.
However the importation and treatment of these limes are far from normal as they are also characterized by major conflict of interest in the Ministry of Agriculture. The limes are actually being imported by the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation (BMDC) and our sources tell us that the BMDC risk losing money as they have already made payment for the limes. The BMDC falls under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, whose CEO, Jose Alpuche is also the Chairman of the BAHA Board of Directors. The BAHA staff have also been under undue pressure to find a fast track way of getting the limes into Belize.
CEO Alpuche confirmed to News 5 earlier this week that the BMDC had applied for a permit to import limes and that a pest risk analysis was being conducted. However, the PUP Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Jose Mai, told BBN last week that a proper ‘pest risk analysis’ was not being done and that the BAHA staff was under pressure to find a fast track way to facilitate the importation. Mai classified the BAHA risk analysis as a ‘paper assessment’.
BBN is also reliably informed that the Citrus Growers Association is not happy with the decision of the Ministry to import limes as it poses a major plant health risk to an already struggling industry.
The importation of limes from Mexico is being considered by the Ministry as currently there is a shortage of limes in the country and this is also occurring when tourist arrivals are at its peak. Limes on the market are therefore extremely expensive, reaching as high as a dollar for a seedless Tahiti lime. Without a formal protocol for the importation of limes, its lucrative contraband trade continues, posing even more risk than formal importation.
There has been no major attempt by the Ministry of Agriculture or the CGA to stimulate an expansion of seedless Tahiti lime production in Belize, or to promote the use of irrigation to provide a more steady supply of limes, or to research the use of flowering hormones and other scientific methods to produce out-of-season limes.
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