Posted: Friday, August 20, 2021. 10:07 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: Earlier this week, Cabinet decided to inject $15 million through the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) as loans to bona-fide farmers to support a revival of the citrus industry. In addition, Cabinet agreed to encourage and support “value adding and diversification of the citrus industry from the production and marketing of bulk citrus concentrates to the manufacture and sale of other fruit concentrates”.
Information provided to Breaking Belize News (BBN) by the Ministry of Agriculture indicates that the diversification efforts approved by Cabinet will include pineapple, soursop, coconuts among others, NFC (not from concentrate) juices, single strength and other tropical juices.
According to Ministry officials, the decision to support the internal and external diversification of the citrus industry is being considered as a way to assist the processing plants in the Stann Creek district to optimize the use of their equipment and meet their processing capacities. These alternative fruit crops will also provide realistic options to citrus farmers to generate income while they await their newly replanted citrus groves to come into production.
Further details on each of the alternative fruit crops being considered for diversification are provided below:
(A) Pineapple – An estimated 450 acres of pineapple exist in Belize, of which some 50 acres are planted with the MD-2 processing variety. Over the last 10 years, an average of 0.5 million lbs per year were processed by Citrus Products of Belize Limited (CPBL). However, in 2020, 1.1 million lbs were processed, and in 2021, 1.25 million lbs has been processed already, and it is projected that 2.5 million lbs will be processed by the end of September 2021. The yield and profit margins from intensive pineapple production are achievable, and pineapple offers a promising alternative fruit crop to process at CPBL. In addition, CPBL has already made investments in equipment and capacity to process up to 15 million lbs of pineapple, and has excess capacity to convert the pineapple concentrate into packaged single strength pineapple and blended juices and squashes for local consumption and for export.
(B) Soursop – Soursop is a high value commodity being sought not only for its pulp for juice, but also for its seed which is used for cosmetic purposes, and its leaves that are used for processing into tea. The potential profit margin for soursop is extremely high, and as a result efforts are already underway in the Ministry of Agriculture to expand the production of soursop. An estimated 750 acres of soursop is already planted in Belize. A total of 60,000 lbs of soursop fruit were processed by CPBL in 2020 and 125 drums (or 43,750 lbs of soursop concentrate) were exported from Belize. The 2021 soursop crop has just begun and CPBL expects to process some 300,000 lbs of fruit.
(C) Coconut – The total acreage of coconut in Belize is estimated to be just over 14,000 acres. Quite a bit of the commercial acreage is planted in the Stann Creek district and across the country. Investments by a number of investors have already been made to process coconut into coconut water (packaged in plastic bottles and tetrapak), coconut oil and coconut milk, and to use the coconut husk for organic matter, biochar and other organic products.
Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Abelardo Mai, has been working closely with his Mexican counterparts to seek support for these initiatives in Belize. Recently, a Веlіzеаn dеlеgаtіоn hеаdеd bу Јаіmе Вrісеñо, Веlіzе’ѕ Тrаdе аnd Іnvеѕtmеnt Аmbаѕѕаdоr, аnd соnѕіѕtіng оf rерrеѕеntаtіvеѕ frоm the Міnіѕtrу оf Аgrісulturе, the Bеlіzе Lіvеѕtосk Рrоduсеrѕ Аѕѕосіаtіоn (ВLРА), the Ѕеrgіо Маrrоquіn Сосоnut Еntеrрrіѕе, Віg Н Еntеrрrіѕеѕ, аnd оthеr Рrіvаtе Ѕесtоr іnvеѕtоrѕ visited Соlіmа, а ѕtаtе іn wеѕtеrn Мехісо оn the сеntrаl Расіfіс соаѕt nеаr Јаlіѕсо аnd Місhоасán.
Міnіѕtеr Маі аnd the dеlеgаtіоn wеrе іn Соlіmа lооkіng аt сосоnut аnd ѕоurѕор рlаntаtіоnѕ аt the іnvіtаtіоn оf the Мехісаn Міnіѕtrу оf Аgrісulturе which has committed to provide improved genetic material and technical assistance to Belize.
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