Posted: Friday, April 1, 2022. 4:11 pm CST.
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: The coconut industry is looking promising as it generates more income for farmers who are in turn investing in more acreage and a coconut water processing plant in the North according to Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise.
“It’s a good initiative because we are diversifying the base in the North and across the country,” said Minister Mai to Breaking Belize News.
“Sugar cane is a very difficult place to be right now. People are looking for alternative sources of income.”
Minister Mai said that though approximately 5,000 acres are already into coconut cultivation in the North, farmers have declared their intention of adding another 2,000 acres. He added that a private entity already has a coconut water processing plant that will be set up in the North.
Across the entire country, over 17,000 acres of coconuts are being cultivated with coconut water and coconut oil as the primary products.
“Large and small-scale coconut oil processing operations are popping up all across Belize,” said Minister Mai in his address a few days ago in the House of Representatives.
“In 2021, apart from the continued expansion of the local market for coconut water, Belize still managed to export two containers of coconut oil to Jamaica,” the Minister noted.
“To facilitate the continued growth of the coconut industry, we have established special ties with INIFAP Mexico (Mexico’s National Institute of Forestry, Agricultural, and Livestock Research) and we have placed an order for 6,000 hybrid nuts from Jamaica,” said Minister Mai.
But to ensure the secure and coordinated expansion of the coconut industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) ordered a feasibility study.
“We are waiting right now for the feasibility study,” said Minister Mai.
“After we see the feasibility study, we are moving on to meeting with the farmers and explaining to them, showing them the figures, and showing them where the market is.
“Farmers want two things. They want the feasibility study, and they want the market. Once they know that they’re making money, they’ll go for it,” Mai said.
The Agriculture Minister said he is confident particularly since preliminary information indicates that investing in the coconut industry is a positive investment that can generate more income for the farmers.
Mai said the MAFSE will train the technicians and farmers on the best available technology for coconut production and will also procure financing for farmers through the Development Finance Corporation.
As an added incentive to farmers and to boost agro-processing and value-adding, the government has waived import duty on agro-processing machinery and equipment, including packaging and labelling.
But the Ministry of Agriculture is not banking only on coconuts as an alternative crop. They are looking at different options.
“We are also multiplying seeds for pitahaya right now, and we are also expanding the soursop industry. We are also looking in the South at cardamom, we are looking at the export market for ginger, for citrus fresh products. We are looking at many things,” said Minister Mai.
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