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Prime Minister John Briceño: ‘Agriculture is our first line in the fight against poverty’

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2022. 7:20 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias:

“Agriculture is our first line in the fight against poverty,” said Prime Minister John Briceño on Tuesday at the inauguration of a renovated export cattle corral in Shipyard, Orange Walk District which will allow up to 800 head of cattle valued at approximately $850,000 to be exported weekly to Mexico.

Prime Minister Briceño said his government needs to make further investments into agriculture as it works to reduce the poverty level in the country.

“We want to continue to work with agriculture. Agriculture can continue to play a critical role in the development of this country,” he said as he addressed a gathering which included the Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration Eamon Courtenay, Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Christopher Coye, representatives of Mexican importer company SuKarne, members of the Belize Livestock Producers Association and the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the Belizean cattle ranchers, among others.

“Agriculture is our first line in the fight against poverty because when our people live in the rural areas can’t sell their chicken, they can’t sell their cattle, they can’t sell their vegetables, what is it that they do? They have to leave their land; they have to leave their farms and then they go to live in the urban areas trying to find a job. And when they can’t find a job then we create even bigger problems in our urban areas.”

The Prime Minister said his government has to continue working with Belize’s farmers to ensure that they can access affordable credit from organizations like the DFC locally and through international organizations like the World Bank, the IDB (Inter- American Development Bank), and the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank). He said they would also look to “our other rich friendly countries that can lend us money at very low interest rates so that our farmers can afford to borrow, invest, and help us to grow this economy”.

Saying that he too is a cattle rancher, he said he is pleased to see the livestock industry making strides in fulfillment of Plan Belize.

PM Briceño said that when the leaders of his party were working on Plan Belize, at first they were told that the poverty level in the country stood at 40 percent but they then found out that it was all the way up to 60 percent.

“That means that out of every ten Belizeans, six of us are poor. That is unacceptable.

He said the goal is to reduce poverty by 50 percent within the next ten years. But he said that is not done by giving out a check.

“You do not eliminate poverty by handouts. You eliminate poverty by growing the economy, creating opportunities for our people, creating opportunities for our farmers,” he said.

The Prime Minister said Belize’s sugar cane farmers are going through a very difficult time because the profit that they make out of a ton of sugar cane is minimal. On the other hand, he pointed out that the gains made by the livestock industry, which has just under 6,000 cattle farmers (slightly more than the sugar cane farmers), have to be supported because they are helping to reduce the level of poverty.

“[Minister Mai] pointed out that the average cattle rancher [has] 30 to 50 head of cattle. If our farmers can be selling 20 to 25 head of cattle a year, that’s an additional $20,000 they are going to make, minimum. They are no longer poor. So, we need to find a way how we can ensure that this can trickle to other farmers not only in the north but in the rest of the country. This is Plan Belize in action,” he noted.

“This is ensuring that our government has a complete and deep understanding and commitment for us to be able to reduce poverty,” the Prime Minister Briceño concluded.

 

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