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Exports dwindled in 2023, but local agriculture production experienced significant boost – Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2024. 10:19 am CST.

Photo Credit: MAFSE

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: After increases in agricultural production for export from 2020 to 2022, 2023 wasn’t such a good year due to climate change and a drop in the citrus industry, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) Jose Abelardo Mai said in his presentation in the Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

But, in a positive note, Mai said that while exports dropped, agriculture production for the home market experienced an upturn.

“Our agricultural exports ballooned from $349.5 million dollars in 2020 when we were voted into office to $462.5 million dollars in 2022, one year after,” Mai said.

“The increases from 2020 to 2022 were led by growth in sugar exports from $111.5 million dollars in 2020 to $162.4 million dollars in 2022 as well as significant growth in the export of cattle to Mexico, a $37 million dollars increase in animal feed, corn and soybean exports to Guatemala and the Caribbean, plus $10 million dollars increase in molasses exports from both BSI and Santander.”

Minister Mai said that climate change is real and affected production in 2023. Mai explained that spikes in temperature when corn is flowering reduces pollination and causes decreases in corn production. He added that the temperature spikes also affect soybean production.

BBN File Photo

“2023 was not a very good year for our traditional agriculture exports and for our non-traditional agriculture 2023 was also a challenge but we did well,” Minister Mai said.

“The traditional agriculture exports fell from a high of $462.5 million in 2022 to $390.3 million dollars in 2023. This $72.5 plus million dollars fall in agricultural exports was primarily due to a struggling citrus industry whose export revenues fell below $25 million for the first time since the 1980’s. This was the biggest fall in citrus.

“A $17.7 million fall in banana exports from $81.7 million in 2022 to $64 million in 2023 and a $27.8 million fall in official exports of animal feed mostly to the Caricom.”

Mai explained that the fall in animal feed exports wasn’t a loss. He said the grains weren’t exported because they were absorbed by the growing livestock industry.

Mai also pointed out that Hurricane Lisa severely affected sugar production in the North, while the banana industry in the South Stann Creek suffered a residual effect from the 2021 flooding.

“While the export agriculture sector, these are the traditional exports, struggled in 2023, local agriculture production experienced a significant boost and even as I deliver this presentation …  I am happy to report that every single one of our then struggling traditional exports, including citrus, is undergoing revival,” Minister Mai said.

He went on to note that sugar, bananas, papaya, shrimps,  citrus, soybean, sorghum, corn, rice, vegetables, poultry, livestock are all on the rise.


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