Posted: Tuesday, June 9, 2020. 3:15 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: The 2019-2020 Citrus Crop is concluding today with the last few loads being received by the Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL) factory in the Stann Creek Valley. Deliveries of oranges to the factory is settling at 1.95 million boxes, while grapefruit deliveries ended at just under 162,000 boxes, for a total crop of 2.11 million boxes.
At 2.11 million boxes, the 2019-2020 citrus crop fell short by just under 100,000 boxes from the 2.2 million boxes that industry experts had estimated for this year’s crop. While this production is 11.5 % or 275,000 boxes below last year’s crop of 2.39 million boxes, the good news for the industry is that the crop appears to be stabilizing around 2 million boxes and is expected to start a slow upward trend as a couple thousand new groves are coming into production. In addition grapefruit prices remain high and in April this year farmers were informed of a slight increase in the price they are being paid for oranges. The estimated grapefruit price is just over $18 per box while the estimated orange prices increased in April from $10.06 per box to just over $11 per box.
The 2019-2020 crop officially began on 6th November 2019. As in recent years, only the Belize Food Products (BFP) plant was used to receive fruits as the Citrus Company of Belize (CCB) plant was closed a few years ago due to falling production in the industry. At 2.11 million boxes, this year’s production represents just over a quarter (or 27%) of what production was in the glory years, particularly in 2005, when citrus production peaked at 7.8 million boxes.
While the 2019-2020 citrus crop is the lowest crop in the last 2 decades, the industry is expected to begin to see an upswing as newly planted groves come into production, and new varieties that are tolerant to citrus greening are now available locally and are being planted in the citrus belt.
However, along with falling production particularly due to citrus greening, infighting between the associations, lack of leadership in the industry, weak support from government and the Ministry of Agriculture, and a struggling Citrus Growers Association (CGA) are all plaguing the industry.
With the COVID-19 pandemic castrating foreign exchange earnings from tourism, industry experts believe that interventions led by the Government of Belize and including local financial institutions and industry stakeholders, is crucial to overcome the current challenges faced by the industry. If players in the industry can put aside their egos and citrus politics, and if the Government of Belize can ably intervene, the citrus industry can be revived and see better times in the near future.
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