Posted: Tuesday, November 24, 2020. 4:26 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The trade of livestock between Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala, stalled in the latter days of the Dean Barrow administration, has been revived in earnest by successor John Briceño and his Minister of Agriculture and Enterprise, Jose Mai.
Breaking Belize News (BBN) has confirmed that 629 heads of cattle are currently under quarantine in Blue Creek, Orange Walk district and is scheduled to be exported formally to Mexico in the first week of December.
This is the largest shipment that will transit the official border since the trade was formalized earlier this year; 28 heads were exported to Guatemala 5 months ago and 241 heads to Mexico almost 3 months ago. Since 2010, the Barrow government had been promising to open up the formal channels of export to Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean but the highly-touted plans only facilitated one legal shipment during the period 2010-2019 and 269 heads so far in 2020 (ie. 28 heads to Guatemala and 241 heads to Mexico.
After the informal trade to Guatemala was closed by the Barrow government, cattle ranchers clamoured for its reopening, particularly as a major glut on the local market forced prices downward and ranchers began to stress about losses the incoming dry season would have on their large stock of cattle across the country. Despite the decision by the Barrow government, the informal cattle trade to Guatemala continued, albeit at a significantly reduced level, and was facilitated by steep bribes that members of the police began to demand for cattle to transit the police checkpoints.
Barrow and former Minister of Agriculture, Senator Godwin Hulse, argued that the trade should only be done on a legal footing to remove any threat of Belize being sanctioned by its trading partners, as well as Government needed access to the highly demanded foreign exchange the trade generated.
But the now-ruling PUP while supporting formal exports, has encouraged the informal trade, arguing that it brings much-needed foreign exchange for the country – to the tune of approximately $50 million annually.
BBN has been informed that the shipment was originally for 350 animals to the imported by Mexico, but that the importer came back and asked for more and agreed to a slightly higher price than was paid for the first shipment exported.
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