Posted: Thursday, July 8, 2021. 1:36 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Belize’s Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai is heading a delegation of agriculture and trade experts and is taking a short hop over the border on Thursday to meet with Mexican counterpart, Agriculture Secretary Dr. Víctor Manuel Villalobos Arámbula, in Chetumal to hold talks on trade and agriculture cooperation.
In an exclusive interview with Breaking Belize News (BBN), Minister Mai said the meeting is at the request of Minister Villalobos. “We put together a delegation and we are meeting in Chetumal on Thursday at the Centro de Convenciones at 11:00 am Mexican time [10 am Belize]. We have put forward the topics that we want to discuss with them in agriculture, such as technical cooperation, genetic improvement in cattle, development of the sheep industry, aquaculture, beekeeping, cooperation in the sectors of fruits and fruit trees such as coconut, citrus and soursop, and tariff exemption on cattle exported to Mexico,” said Minister Mai.
Belize stands to gain considerably from these talks considering our Northern neighbour is a giant in the region. With a population of 126.1 million people, Mexico offers significant trade opportunities to Belizean producers and service providers. The neighbouring state of Quintana Roo alone had approximately 1.5 million people in the 2015 census.
Belize has recently been exporting cattle to Mexico but stands at a big disadvantage. Having to pay tariffs on those exports means our livestock producers don’t make the types of profit they would if Belize had a partial-scope agreement with Mexico as we do with Guatemala. So, these talks will help pave the way to finalize a partial scope agreement between the two (2) countries.
Currently Belize imports over $200 million worth of products from Mexico each year but only exports around $5 million, representing a mere 2.5% of our imports from that country. Most or our exports to Mexico have been centered on the fisheries and aquaculture sector, such as shrimp, prawn, and rock lobster. Additionally, Belize also exports pepper sauce and essential grapefruit oils.
Accompanying Minister Mai are Chief Executive Officer Servulo Baeza, Technical Adviser Digno Polanco; Chief Agriculture Officer Andrew Harrison and other senior staff members from the Ministry of Agriculture, Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA), Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Customs department, Ministry of Finance, BELTRAIDE, OIRSA Representative in Belize, Fermin Blanco, and InterAmerican Institute for Agricultural Cooperation (IICA) Representative, Engineer Willie Chan.
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