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Ministry of Agriculture says it cannot police borders for contraband potato

Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2019. 9:22 am CST.

BBN Staff: The Ministry of Agriculture informs the public that to coordinate the start of local harvesting and the cutoff point of imported potatoes, the Ministry convened a meeting with potato producers from Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk and Stann Creek Districts on January 16, 2019.

The objective of the meeting was to present the 2019 potato projections and to agree on the dates for the commencement of the harvesting of potatoes.

According to the Ministry, the outcome of the meeting was for the Cayo potato fields to be harvested commencing January 30, 2019, and Corozal, Orange Walk and Stann Creek potato fields to be harvested commencing February 15, 2019.

If the agreement was adhered to, San Carlos Village in the Orange Walk District would begin harvesting on Friday, February 15th.

Several fresh produce can only be produced economically within Belize for a limited period during the year.

For this reason, and to maintain year-round availability to consumers, importation is allowed when local production is not available.

The Ministry of Agriculture explains that it regularly convenes meetings with local producers and importers to plan the delicate transition as in most cases, any unfilled demand from local producers or formal imports is filled by contraband produce.

“The Ministry has no legal authority to police the borders for contraband and must rely on those with the authority including the Belize Customs Department, Belize Agricultural Health Authority and the Police Department to acquit this very challenging task,” a statement from the Ministry says.

Belize consumes on average 100,000 pounds of potatoes weekly.

For the 2018–19 potato season it was calculated that a total of 348 acres were planted with a forecast production of 3,577,000 pounds.

Of this total, 280 acres were planted in the Cayo District, 35 acres in the Orange Walk District, and 33 acres in the Corozal District.

Harvesting was scheduled to start the last week of January 2019 when potatoes would have been physiologically matured and marketable after seven days of curing.

The Ministry informs that the last license for imported potatoes was issued on January 11th for 200,000 pounds.

The last date on which these potatoes could be imported was on January 22, 2019, which would properly fit the start of local production.

The Ministry of Agriculture says that it remains committed to supporting vegetable producers through the vegetable producer coordinating platform to facilitate the marketing of their locally produced vegetables.


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