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Belize to be self-sufficient in soybean and soybean meal/concentrate for the first time in history

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Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2022. 7:41 pm CST.

Photo Credit: MAFSE

By Rubén Morales Iglesias:

For the first time in Belize’s agricultural history, the country is approaching self-sufficiency in soybean and soybean meal/concentrate, say sources at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE).

Currently Belize has 35.2 million pounds of soybean in stock and with the current production rate those numbers are expected to rise.

“Soybean is one of the richest and cheapest sources of protein and is a staple in the diets of people and animals in numerous parts of the world. The seed contains 17 percent oil and 63 percent meal, 50 percent of which is protein,” said MAFSE as Chief Agriculture Officer Andrew Harrison along with Dr. Victoriano Pascual, Director of Climate Change and Water Management, met on Wednesday with the Soybean Task Force working group in Blue Creek.

The meeting’s objective was for the parties to discuss the present stock and the forecast production data of soybean and corn. Apart from the 35.2 million pounds of soybean, at present, Belize also has 65.3 million pounds of corn, much of which is mixed with soybean for animal feed.

“The soybean industry is important for food security on a long-term basis,” said Prime Minister John Briceño last month after joining Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai and the owners of Quality Feed Mill (QFM) in Spanish Lookout at the groundbreaking for a new $8 million Quality Vegetable Oil Refinery.

“I welcome the opportunity for our soybean industry to support local market demand and afford Belize greater import substitution.”

Recently the Government of Belize has been pushing for more agricultural production and the soybean industry is one that stands out. For long it’s been considered extremely important for food security, but up to now Belize has had to import soybean to mix with local corn and sorghum for animal feed.

Just last year, Belize produced 40 million pounds of soybean from 28,000 acres. This increased soybean production has reduced the importation of soybean concentrates and animal feed to less than $10 million per year, said MAFSE.

Production is expected to increase to 40,000 acres which would produce just under 60 million pounds of soybean. MAFSE has been talking about an improved production rate per acre. If that is so, production might even be more.

Up to date, Belize’s has also been importing oils and fats for home and restaurants’ consumption to the tune of 5.7 million liters of cooking oil, valued at about BZ$24 million yearly. Already farmers are extracting soybean oil, but the crude oil stocks are not being used locally and farmers have had to make not-so-favourable exports to the region. That is expected to change now as recently ground was broken in Spanish Lookout for a soybean oil refinery and a similar one is to be opened in the Orange Walk District as well.

“If we can start to produce our own vegetable oil and we don’t have to import, that’s a plus and if we can do even more, if we can export into the Caribbean, that’s even a bigger plus for Belize,” said Prime Minister Briceño last month to the owners of Quality Feed Mill at Spanish Lookout at the soybean oil refinery groundbreaking.

“That means that we’ll have to be able to plant even more soybeans, and then you have to hire more people, bring in more foreign currency. So that’s a win-win for all of us.”

The way things are going, the Ministry of Agriculture expects Belize to become self-sufficient in soybean, soybean meal/concentrate, and soybean oil in the near future.

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