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High level Citrus Working Group appointed to prepare concrete recommendations to revive and diversify the citrus industry

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Posted: Monday, April 19, 2021. 4:03 pm CST.

By BBN Staff: Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Mai has nominated a high level Citrus Working Group that is tasked with preparing concrete recommendations to chart the way forward for the citrus industry in Belize. 

The Working Group is to be chaired by former Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Hugh O’Brien and includes Dr. Eugene Cleland representing the Citrus Growers Association (CGA), Ernest Raymond representing Belize Citrus Mutual (BCM), Kent Herrera representing Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL), Franklyn Magloire, representing the Development Finance Corporation (CPBL), Andy Sutherland, representing the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and Jose Novelo, representing the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise.

The specific terms of reference of the working group are as follows:

i. To analyze the present situation with regards to the citrus industry in light of record low production, citrus greening and other diseases, financial constraints and other local and international challenges;

ii. To present proposals for reform, including legislative and organizational changes, and analyzing all viable options for the citrus industry in general;

iii. To prepare concrete recommendations to revive and diversify the citrus industry;

iv. To conduct (i), (ii) and (iii) by reviewing existing studies and information, and consulting with key industry personnel.

Production of citrus in Belize has declined rapidly in recent years, reaching a low of 2.1 million boxes in the 2019-2020 crop while the current crop is not expected to even reach 2 million boxes. This is a dismal production when compared to the 7.8 million boxes produced in 2005, a time when citrus was in its glory days and considered the “King of the South”. The citrus industry is facing numerous challenges and while some are writing off the industry, Minister Mai is of the belief that given the right environment and leadership, the industry can be both revived and diversified.

The Citrus Working Group is appointed initially for a period of 8 weeks, during which time the Working Group is expected to prepare and submit the recommendations to the Minister responsible for Agriculture, Jose Mai. It is Minister Mai’s intention to submit these recommendations to Cabinet in the form of a Cabinet Paper for their consideration.

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