Posted: Tuesday, April 28, 2020. 11:43 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Minister for Food and Agriculture Senator Godwin Hulse says for the record that his soon to leave CEO, Jose Alpuche, has not to his knowledge indicated in any way that he has resigned over the recent shuttering of the cattle trade with Guatemala.
Hulse made note that he and Alpuche and the other staff at the Ministry have long worked well together.
On the food situation generally, Hulse reassured that despite shortfalls in funding at Budget time, Belize continues to have an abundance of food and efforts are being made to distribute to the neediest.
And he credited his Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai, for making valuable contributions in steadying the agriculture ship, including COVID-19 proofing the all-important sugar industry.
As for the livestock trade, Hulse compared it with the situation of the collapse of the national rice export trade in 1982, which collapsed rice exports from 25 containers per month to none.
But there is good news on that front: Belize does have a legal route to selling cattle in Guatemala since 2017, but it was necessary to close that loophole with the border between the countries closed.
Hulse confirmed that it was St. Vincent and the Grenadines who had asked for the 1,000 head of cattle to be shipped and that was being worked on; Jamaica is asking that Belize not stop exporting red kidney beans for sale and where possible Belize continues to work on its exports, having not stopped cargo transport.
Most of Belize’s farmers are now registered under a national registry system in the wake of last year’s drought which is expected to continue this year, and many vegetable, sugar and other farmers.
The Caribbean Development Bank’s $25 million facility for drought relief will not be available until September or October, but $14 million of a $21 million fund will be made available in the next three weeks for immediate COVID-19 relief. In addition, it has been agreed that farmers’ loans will be reclassified for 6-18 months and risk recalculation cut by 50 percent.
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