Posted: Tuesday, May 25, 2021. 4:27 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The second stop of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Tour of Corozal on Friday morning took the agricultural staff to the village of Concepcion where they visited a farm owned by the Concepcion Vegetable Farmers Group (CVF).
The CVF was started last year, now has 27 members, and plans to officially register as a cooperative in the very near future.
“They are trying to work together, but we’ve been emphasizing on that, that unity makes strength,” said Elsner Campos, the Corozal District Agricultural Officer.
“We have carrots, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes and zucchini,” said chairman Orlando Ek as he gave the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai and his staff a tour of his farm which is part of the CVF.
For the 2020-2021 season, the Concepcion Vegetable Farmers Group produced over 95,000 pounds of onions, 57,000 pounds of carrots, 100,000 pounds of tomatoes, 130,000 pounds of cabbage, 20,000 pounds of hot pepper and 108,000 pounds of watermelon valued at just under $500,000.00.
Ek explained that they had been testing different varieties of carrots and abandoned one particular type because it looked pale, and people like bright orange.
“Last year we noticed that San Carlos (Orange Walk) was planting in February and we only planted in January,” Ek said, adding that they tried it and it worked well.
Ek said that it has become clear to them that farmers need to network to improve quantity and quality, and prices as well.
The Concepcion Vegetable Farmers Group has a substantial amount of Tropicana cabbage planted, but they have to deal with pests like the Diamond Back moth, which eats the outer leaves.
They are trying to control it so that the moth and other pests don’t get to the inner core.
“Excellent, excellent taste,” said MAFSE’s Project Coordinator and Program Coordinator for Grains and Traditional Export Crops Jose Novelo, who cut and tasted one of the cabbages. “Not even peppery because it’s getting enough water because if it doesn’t have enough water, it tastes peppery.”
Novelo, who is an enthomologist, said that if the worms bore the inner core, the worms create holes and putrefaction, which will make the consumers reject the product.
Farmers have to control the pest by spraying biological inorganic products using the Wobbler irrigation system which sprays uniformly drowning the adult moth according to irrigation technician Alberto Gutierrez.
Carlos Ek, the treasurer of the CVF, said they’ve tried the Chanda variety but it takes too long to grow and harvest so they discontinued it.
Contrary to what Ek said, Gutierrez says the Chanda is a better variety than the Tropicana. The Chanda, according to Gutierrez, is superior though it is very demanding. However, if properly cared for, it should be ready to harvest in 65 days, not a 100.
But, the CVF have found a way with the Tropicana and are satisfied with their production.
The CVF also plants onions and said to Minister Mai and his staff that the restriction on importation has helped them considerably.
“When importation was stopped, the onion farmers, we had a good crop from January to March. Over the last month prices went down but we are at the tail end of the season,” Orlando Ek said.
“Same with the potatoes,” said Minister Mai.
They are aware the farmers said that importation is allowed at certain times of the year that the local production cannot supply the demand but criticized the Marketing Board for allowing importation previously.
John Daniels, who is a member of the CVFG and is considered an expert in papaya production, asked the Minister Mai to consider getting the importers to bring in onion from Mexico rather than from Holland because if there is a delay, which happened already, the Dutch onion gets here when the local onion is already available in the Belizean market. That affects both negatively. The Minister pointed out that Mexican onions are more expensive, and that’s why the importers prefer to buy from Holland.
All in all, the last harvest was so good, that onion prices fell.
“With that change [restriction on importation], if the price went down, it’s because the producers wanted to lower it,” said Campos.
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