Posted: Friday, May 27, 2022. 5:58 pm CST.
Photo Credit: MAFSE
By Rubén Morales Iglesias: “Despite the lingering COVID induced challenges, farmers increased production from $560 million in 2020 to $620 million in 2021, a whopping $60 million more,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) Jose Abelardo Mai at the opening ceremony of the 50th National Agricultural and Trade Show in Belmopan on Friday.
“For two years, we have had to forgo this special day of celebration due to the Covid-19 pandemic which caused a complete lockdown of our national economy and disrupted all our lives like never seen before in our lifetimes. However, our farmers and producers never stopped working, producing, and feeding our people,” said Mai who then went on to recount Belize’s bounce back in agriculture but not without first congratulating the farmers for a job well done.
“Kudos to our farmers. And since today is their day let’s salute them for going beyond the call of duty, and for being highly productive and patriotic in a time of crisis. Let’s all rise and give these farmers a round of applause,” said the Agriculture Minister.
“2022 will be a great year for sugar as the cumulative production of sugar by BSI and Santander is expected to be a record for Belize and this occurring at a time when world market prices for sugar which have already risen by 20% is expected to rise further with India and other countries restricting their exports,” he said.
The shrimp industry is on the rebound, and he said that this year we’ll see the results of the Government’s intervention efforts to revive the industry.
Mai said that though the banana industry had a record year in 2021, this year’s harvest is being affected by a labor shortage like what happened to the citrus industry. However, he said the Government is already working to resolve the problem just like they did with the citrus industry which has now delivered almost 1.2 million boxes to the factory despite doomsayers predicting that deliveries wouldn’t even reach 1 million boxes.
He said that in just 2 months, “11 farmers have applied for an estimated $1.1 million in loan financing from the $15 million that was allocated to the DFC to revive this industry”.
The Agriculture Minister promised that the citrus industry will rise again saying that already some 2,000 plus new acres of oranges and grapefruit have been planted with new varieties that are tolerant to citrus greening.
Mai said livestock has seen an enormous surge bringing in over $55 million in foreign exchange from the export of over 40,000 head of cattle since November 2020. He explained that over 37,000 were exported to Guatemala and 2,800 to Mexico.
He then moved to the dairy sector which he said has high confidence such that recently just under $3 million was invested in a UHT milk processing plant. He added that since this new UHT facility was officially opened by Prime Minister Briceño in March, milk production increased by 15% and Belize no longer has a surplus of milk.
The MAFSE Minister then referred to the $12 million investment in a soybean oil refinery in the West, and a separate oil processing facility in the north. Coupled with that, he said a hatchery for poultry is being modernized and a new $6 million minsa (corn flour) factory “has been ordered that will ensure that all the minsa that Belize consumes will be produced here in Belize, saving our country of some $6 million in foreign exchange.”
Mai said he expects MAFSE, and its partners will keep pushing ahead taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to Belize.
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