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Port shutdown will grind country to a halt in a week, says Chamber of Commerce

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Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2022. 10:41 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The stand-off between the Port of Belize Limited (PBL) and Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) has far-reaching consequences beyond the essential service.

President of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Marissa Longsworth, says members have informed that ordinary Belizeans will see shortages of groceries on the shelves within a week if the stand-off continues. Not to mention, she added, the urgency of export and obtaining of items for such, and an expected further rise in prices for goods that are not replenished to time.

William Usher, member of the BCCI Executive Council with respect to commerce, explained concerning exports: “For those who are exporting, their containers currently are stuck in the port. And so, they can’t meet their delivery obligation. One of the things is when you are exporting, you and your client basically make a pact on the time of particular goods should be arriving. And when you have your containers stuck inside the port and can’t get on the ship, that becomes an issue. In many cases, if you don’t deliver on time, again these are penalties. There are costs in terms of delivery on time.”

Consultant Daniel Gutierrez cited direct impacts to employees of the service sector which he said represents jobs, revenue and income: “In the case of services, in one sector alone – in the BPO [Business Process Outsourcing] sector, for example, there are hundreds of pieces of equipment that were bound to come in over the last few days. Those hundreds of pieces of equipment represented jobs, hundreds, dozens of jobs that will now have to be put off. Those are jobs. That is food on the table that’s been denied to our people simply because the goods that they need to be able to set up the equipment in the BPO sector are being denied to them.”

He added that there are effects on the critical health sector, as well: “Our health care providers or healthcare sector – it is not only the things that come in to fight COVID. That is enough in and of itself, but also the other medication that other people need – pieces of equipment that are needed in the health care sector. Those are also on those ships.”

Fertilizer not being brought in hurts small farmers, he added; wheat not being brought in may endanger the flour supply for bread and pastries.

Jodie Williams of Marie Sharp’s Fine Foods Limited detailed how his famous company will be affected: “We are waiting for bottles to come in for Marie Sharp’s; if I can’t get those bottles in by later this week, I will not be able to meet the connecting ship that will go out over the weekend. And guess what will happen – right now the export market is very competitive; and if we can’t supply the demand, we will get thrown out of the supermarket shelves out there in the U.S. and Canada; and guess what, they will have other products from other countries that will quickly fill that place if we are not able to supply on time.”

President Longsworth also raised the issue of contraband, which Police have tried to clamp down on during the pandemic but which may increase and is not taxed, hurts the country doubly by taking money from legitimate businesses. Belizean businesses need to stock to make the products that Belizeans can choose over foreign imports.

 

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