Posted: Friday, October 30, 2020. 11:23 am CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
Paid Contribution: In Part I, the untold story of how Belize began producing onions, carrots and irish potatoes on a commercial scale in the early 2000s was presented. By 2005 and under the able stewardship of the PUP, production was averaging between 2-3 million pounds per year for both onions and irish potatoes, and carrot production was over half a million pounds per year, and numerous small farmers were happy, excited and making money.
In the last decade or so, farmers who produce onions, carrots and irish potatoes have had to deal with a UDP government that have neglected agriculture. Import permits have been given out mercilessly while farmers crops rot in the fields. The plight of farmers has fallen on deaf ears, receiving some lip service here and there. Despite farmers taking their plight to the media and showing their crops rotting in the fields, the support from Belmopan is woefully lacking.
The UDP does not believe in agriculture, they have not created any new agriculture industry, they destroyed the papaya industry, they sat idly by and watched the demise of the citrus industry, they gave no support to the development and processing of limes, coconuts, pineapple and soursop in southern Belize, they are currently punishing cattle farmers, and they even tax the sugar out of our farmers’ bread and bun. It took COVID-19 for the UDP to recognize the importance of agriculture. Even Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington speaks about the value of agriculture every time he gets a chance now.
The PUP’s agriculture and food policy outlines that the PUP will:
1. Identify suitable areas for production of vegetables with effective demand in all districts;
2. Expand and intensify production of onions, carrots, irish potatoes and other vegetables, including the use of irrigation systems, hydroponics and greenhouse technology;
3. Closely monitor and control the import permits to ensure that no permits for these crops are issued just before or during the production of these vegetable crops;
4. Reduce taxes on fuel used to produce food for local consumption and export;
5. Reduce or remove GST and import duties on materials and supplies, irrigation drainage and other equipment used for the production;
6. Reduce GST on materials and supplies used for greenhouse technology;
7. Provide loans to improve technology and increase production, storage and processing of onions, carrots, irish potatoes and other vegetables;
8. Conduct on farm research, field trials and demonstration plots focusing on new varieties and adoption constraints;
9. Encourage investment in storage and processing of these vegetables and other crops;
10. Train farmers and develop institutional capacity on climate-smart systems and practices;
11. Undertake a massive propaganda advertising and urging people to eat local and avoid cheap, poor quality food imports;
12. Organize and assist farmers, farmer cooperatives and associations to supply these crops to tourist establishments, hotels and restaurants, and supermarkets across the whole country.
Under a PUP government, the importance of agriculture will be put back in its rightful place.
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