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Stop calling Belize a Small Country

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Posted: Friday, June 5, 2020. 10:37 am CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

Contributed by Todd Vickstrom – Belize Coconuts LLC: After reviewing the past 25 years of Belize’s growth, the one flaw that may be assessed is the consideration that we are a “small country.”

Entering Belize’s Philip Goldson International Airport in 1995, you might have commented that this is a small third world country. People with a vision said, “Wow, what potential for a “huge” open market.”

Landing in Placencia, you may have said the same as you did when you landed in Belize City. Many of us early hoteliers had a vision that this would be a huge tourism destination, today it is.

Today, we need to look at Belize as a country with “huge” opportunities. To be “huge” though, will take more than the pittances of investment by the government. It will take more than “hoping,” that investors will come as they did with the tourism industry, in the ’90s and early 2000s. Too many government takeovers of solid companies have deterred any large companies to invest in the “huge” opportunities for Belize.

Correct thinking is that we need to expand our exports, equally correct thinking is, that we need to expand our agriculture sector. The only way to expand and take advantage of the potential to have a “huge” impact on the countries agriculture sector, is true government investment.

Presently, there are not enough proper roads to areas of agriculture. This takes a large investment from the government. True investment of wells in agricultural areas, must have government investment. Real business loans. I don’t mean $1k or $3k startups, it will take hundreds of thousands of dollars. It will take more than some conferences with great slide shows, it will take intelligent experienced entrepreneurs and business people leading the way in the field, not in the conference room.

There are so many opportunities in the aquaculture and agriculture fields. Presently, the coconut export has begun to take hold. It will take government investment to take this from a small farmer business to a “huge” coop to benefit the country and the small farmers, as the citrus and sugar has been able to do. There has been multiple conferences and lip service directed to this industry. I am sure that the many interested small farmers that attended these conferences have been left with hopes and little more. The coconut farmer does not need to be spoken to, rather needs to be listened to. CARDI in 2014 spent money to assess the potential and found there were only 1,500 acres of coconuts in Belize. Today, there is closer to four times that. A third of that coming from a single farm in the south. Many of these small farmers planted coconuts under the pretense that there would be a future in the industry.

The government today could be responsible and take credit for one of the largest growth exports of Belize, by investing in it immediately. Subsidizing long term on fertilizer, roads, irrigation and processing areas. Today, with the overwhelming demand worldwide for coconut products, there is no better time than now to invest. India, Brazil, Philippines and other countries have taken an active role in investing in the growth of coconut production.

This is not a time to call Belize a “small country”, we have thousands of acres, a “huge” amount of land that can easily be planted with coconuts. The useable land for coconuts does not have to be as pristine as it needs to be for other agriculture commodities.

Currently, the market has been tested in the United States regarding the demand for the Belize coconut products and it is truly positive. The U.S alone has over 40,000 grocery stores and demand of over 2 billion dollars a year in coconut water, plus 490,000 metric tons of coconut oil. Recently added to the snack market is coconut chip which is in great demand. Other products, from shredded coconut, coconut flour, charcoal and other products for the coconut tree, the potential is “huge.” The only reason it has not been capitalized on is due to the lack of true investment.

A serious investment can take a commodity that is barely acknowledgeable on our export charts, to a multi-million-dollar export. With proper direction and government investment, this could be a boom for the small, mid and large Belize coconut farmer.

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