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Soybean being a success story, Belize ready to export soybeans to China, says Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2023. 12:21 pm CST.

Photo Credit: MAFSE

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Soybean being a success story for Belizean agriculture, the country is now poised to export soybeans to China for the first time in its history, according to Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai. He announced that a Chinese company has requested to buy 10 40-foot containers of soybeans from Belize. The soybeans are grown in Indian Church in Orange Walk District and are free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This makes them attractive to the Chinese market, which has strict regulations on GMOs.

“We are now seeking to export to the Caricom and we’ve made very important contacts with the Chinese people. They want I think somewhat to begin with 10 40-foot containers of soybean and so we are preparing to get that to China,” Minister Mai said at the handing over of the Belize Resilient School Feeding Program (BRSFP) to the Ministry of Education at the San Joaquin RC Primary School on Wednesday.

Recently, the soybean industry has become a success story showing that Belize can achieve food security and economic growth through innovation and collaboration.

Soybean field. (Photo Credit: MAFSE)

“This is the first time in the history that Belize does not have to import a single grain of soybean from other countries,” Minister Mai said.

“We are now self-sufficient in soybean production … We’ve stepped up the game. In the past, we were importing $25 million worth of soybean meal and $24 million worth of oil … today we are saving that foreign exchange.”

Belize used to import soybean concentrates for animal feed and cooking oils for human consumption, spending about $49 million BZD per year. However, with the government’s support and the farmers’ efforts, soybean production has increased dramatically in the past decade. In 2021, Belize harvested a record 38 million pounds of soybeans from 28,000 acres of land. In 2022, the production reached 50 million pounds from the same acreage, due to improved yields.

Having achieved self-sufficiency in soybean and soybean meal/concentrate for animal feed, Belize is now no longer importing soybean concentrates. Moreover, Belize has started to export soybean oil and meal to other countries in the region as indicated above.

Mai said the next step is to reduce the dependence on imported cooking oils, which cost about $24 million BZD per year. To achieve this goal, two soybean oil refineries are being built in Spanish Lookout and Orange Walk District. These will process the crude oil extracted from the soybeans and produce high-quality vegetable oil for local and international markets.

Mexican soybean specialists assessing soybean production in February 2022. (Photo Credit: MAFSE)

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) and the soybean farmers have received quite a bit of support from the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in developing the industry to this point and have now started a new collaboration with Mexico through the Strategic Project for the Bilateral Productive Strengthening Mexico-Belize. Under this program, MAFSE has been working closely on the cultivation of soybeans with Mexico’s National Institute for Forestry, Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIFAP). Through strategic planning, the project seeks to contribute to increased productivity of soybean and three other crops, namely soursop, coconuts, and pitahaya prompting Mai to say that the collaboration between Mexico and Belize is important.

With this additional input, MAFSE expects the soybean industry to keep growing.

 

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