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Running W Brand Meats will not be at National Agriculture and Trade Show; cites beef, pork short supply and COVID-19

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Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2022. 1:32 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “I only go to Agric for the big bone pork chop,” said a fan of Running W Brand Meats on social media under the announcement by Running W that they won’t be offering their products at this year’s National Agriculture and Trade Show.

“The Management of Running W Brand Meats informs the general public that unfortunately we will not be attending this Year’s National Agriculture and Trade Show. This is due to the current short supply locally of Beef and Pork, and the rise in Covid Cases,” said Running W who have been a staple at the Agric Show since its inception.

“We are disappointed that we cannot be there this year, but we want to thank our valued customers for your continued support.”

So, if you’re one of the persons who only goes for the Running W big bone pork chop, baby back ribs, or the sausages, you’ll have to get them from someone else or you’ll have to wait until next time.

But Breaking Belize News (BBN) sources say it’s more than just a matter of supply. Our sources say the exporters are offering cattle farmers up to $2.40 per pound while the local buyers are paying much less.

“It’s a price war, there is no shortage of beef,” Belarmino Esquivel told BBN in an exclusive interview. Esquivel is the Principal Agriculture Officer and Director of Livestock in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise.

Esquivel said the prices offered by Guatemalan and Mexican buyers are much higher than those offered by Belizean buyers, so it stands to reason that the cattle producers will sell to who pays them better prices. The price war is clearly in the best interests of farmers who have suffered their share of losses due to oversupply of cattle, lack of markets, low prices, drought, and the closure of the borders by various administrations.

Lately when Mexican company Su Karne entered the local market they upped the price per pound for cattle, so much so that the Guatemalan importers, who were already buying Belizean cattle, are now paying more than both the Mexicans and the local buyers.

While that is good for the cattle producers, the local meat processing companies are feeling the pinch.

Escander Bedran, owner/manager of Running W Brand Meats said cattle exports are necessary but the prices the Guatemalans are paying is making it difficult for the meat processing companies in Belize.

“The country cannot consume the amount of cattle we produce. We do need the export to Mexico and Guatemala but can’t compete with the high prices. That makes it impossible for us to buy and sell on the local market. We can’t compete with those high prices. One day it’s $2.35 per pound, the next day it’s $2.55 per pound on live weight,” said Bedran.

The Running W owner said local meat processors can pay up to $2.15. Beyond that they will not be making any profit. “With this drought I don’t have my cattle ready to slaughter, so I can’t afford to buy locally right now.”

Additionally, Bedran said the Guatemalans make competition harder because they go from farm to farm to buy cattle while for the Belizean meat processors, farmers normally deliver their cattle to the meat plant as is the case for other products like oranges, beans, sugar cane, and corn.

As to the National Agriculture and Trade Show, Bedran said that considering the situation he is satisfied with the decision to not attend because, apart from incurring a loss, Running W would be risking his employees now that COVID-19 is resurfacing. Bedran said that since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Running W has been ferrying its employees from home to work and back to avoid publicly exposing them to COVID-19.

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 situation is of concern with 200 new cases this past weekend and the number of active cases now closing in on 900.

“With the high cases of Covid going up, I don’t want to take my staff there and have my employees risking their time working for us. I have a business to run,” he said.

“So, with all of this, we decided … there is a scarcity of beef because of the high prices. There is a scarcity of pork, not because we are exporting, no pigs are being exported but the price of corn and the price of fuel have gone up, so we have to raise prices on those products. Going to the showgrounds and trying to sell your product, I’ll only sell it at a loss, and it doesn’t make any sense.”

Bedran said that he is also satisfied with the general comments followers have made on the Running W Facebook page supporting their move on both counts.

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