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“There are many things that we can do to help the farmers,” says Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai during a 2-day Cayo District tour

Posted: Thursday, May 6, 2021. 12:00 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “There are many things that we can do to help the farmers,” said Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MOA) Jose Abelardo Mai during his two-day tour of the Cayo District.

Mai, who used to be an extension officer within the ministry he now oversees, is keen on meeting the farmers personally to find out what they are doing and what their needs are.

“We’ve looked at irrigation systems, we looked at the need for drainage, we looked at the need for greenhouses,” Mai said. “We looked at the need for proper storage, we looked at the need for value-adding and processing. So, of course, we see that there are many needs and there are many things that we can do to help the farmers.

On Tuesday, May 3, and Wednesday, May 5, Mai and a delegation of 40 members visited farmers and cattle producers in Springfield, Valley of Peace, Barton Creek, Vaca, and San Antonio. His delegation was comprised of international agriculture partners, technical staff, and operations staff of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).

On his first stop at Springfield, Mai met with the Mennonite community who are heavy into the production of vegetables and in Valle de Paz he walked into the cabbage plantations and checked out their irrigation system which has improved with the help of a pump that his ministry provided the farmers.

“Research is critical,” Mai said. “We need new varieties of onions, onions that can be planted now in this time of the year so that if you harvest these successfully, you can then have onions for 80 or 90 percent of the year. That’s what we are going to do.”

The MOA extension officers and technicians are working closely with the farming communities so much so that at each stop there were presentations both from them and the village representatives.

Mai said he learned a lot from the experts in the different fields.

“You listen to the experience they have and their knowledge in certain areas. There’s a need for value-adding, there’s a need for proper storage, there’s a need for new technology. And, this gives me a lot of good ideas, so I already gave instructions as to how to fix some of these things or how to start fixing the problem,” Mai said.

Because not everything can be sold immediately after harvesting, storage and agro-processing become imperative.

“The need for processing our potatoes, of storage of onions is critical. And we are working on that right, right now,” Mai said.

During the Cayo tour, MOA Minister Mai also met with members of the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative and members of Cooperativa El Progreso, owners of a supermarket in Valle de Paz.

Mai still has a number of districts left to visit to find out more about the successes and needs of Belize’s farmers.


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