Posted: Wednesday, October 21, 2020. 12:52 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: On a date to be announced, the Belize Livestock Producers’ Association (BLPA) plans a protest countrywide concerning the Government once again closing the informal market for cattle exports, a move it says is hurting farmers.
Secretary-Treasurer of the BLPA, Ralph Moody, told Breaking Belize News this afternoon that the highly-touted exports of livestock to Guatemala and Mexico earlier this year have been the only ones to date under the new regime: 28 heads of cattle to Guatemala nearly four months ago and 241 heads to Mexico more than a month ago.
“How can we survive on that? No way we can live with exporting that…we have to export between 2,000 and 3,000 heads of cattle per month and that is just breaking even on what we export annually,” he explained.
In a press statement, the Association said it had negotiated a window for further exports on September 28, only to have it slammed shut about two weeks ago. The Association says the March halt was done without consultation or notice, unilaterally, disregarding farmers’ plights and providing no alternative. Prime Minister Dean Barrow publicly referred to the sales, which had been going on for at least 20 years, as “illegal” and suggested ranchers were guilty of money laundering for not paying appropriate taxes and levies on their sales and profits. He blamed a combination of pressure from Guatemala, Mexico and the United States and COVID-19 conditions for the decision to pursue a more formal trading process.
Except, said Moody, that only the larger farmers in Orange Walk and Cayo Districts have benefited. Smaller ranchers in the Toledo District and Belize River Valley are seeing their animals losing value and not all can reach the standard needed for export.
On the issue of quarantine for animals for export, Moody said that farmers in the Valley, in particular, do not have space or resources to keep animals separate for 21 days and a loss of up to US$37 million is expected this year.
And with a depressed market for beef and similar products in Belize, the producers just have too much cattle to be consumed here; the excess needs to be exported and soon.
Moody says the BLPA is asking authorities for a time span to get rid of excess animals until the formal market gets re-started, but as for how long this continues, he said this is “the norm” until the red tape has been untangled.
Nonetheless, he adds, farmers cannot wait that long and so they will mobilize to get the Government’s attention.
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