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Soybean is a such a success story that serious investments are being made in the industry, says Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai

Posted: Friday, March 24, 2023. 4:44 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE)

By Rubén Morales Iglesias:

Belize is now self-sufficient in soybean production such that the country is now exporting soybean meal to Caribbean countries and Guatemala.

That’s according to Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai who said during the House of Representatives Debate on Thursday that soybean production is a success story. Mai said the Government gave the green light to a soybean oil refinery in Spanish Lookout which should come on-stream by July.

‘From zero acres of soybean in the 1990’s, we became self-sufficient in soybean in 2021, producing a record 38 million pounds or 380,000 bags of soybean from 28,000 acres that was planted,” Mai said.

“And guess what, if 2021 was not a record enough, in 2022 farmers planted 36,000 acres and harvested over 55 million lbs allowing Belize for the first time to be able to export soybean meal to Caribbean countries and Guatemala.”

The Minister said the soybean industry, which is very important for food security in Belize, is no longer dependent on imported soybean concentrates to mix with local corn and sorghum for animal feed, and will soon not have to depend on various imported oils, lard, and fats for use in our homes and restaurants.

Soybean shipment to Trinidad and Tobag0 in January 2023. (Photo Credit: MAFSE)

Mai said it’s not been easy as the effort started 25 years ago, but now the industry has produced the desired results.

“So confident is the farming community in the soybean success story, that serious investments are being made in the processing of the soybean,” said in reference to the soybean oil refinery in Spanish Lookout.

“A US $12 million investment in a soybean oil refinery is nearing completion in the Cayo District and by July this year, Belize will have its first refined soybean oil selling on the local market and available for export,” Mai said.

“The processing capacity of the plant is 12 tons of oil on a daily basis. Belize currently extrudes 5 to 8 tons soybean oil per day so the intention is for this refinery to buy all soybean oil from farmers in the north, and this will still leave the plant with some additional capacity as soybean production continues to expand.”

Mai said the Government of Belize has fully supported the soybean oil refinery by exempting the importation of processing equipment from duty, similar to the Blue Creek extruding plant that will produce soybean meal and sell the crude soybean oil to the Spanish Lookout oil refinery.

Soybean shipment to Trinidad and Tobag0 in January 2023. (Photo Credit: MAFSE)


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