Local Farmers First
Sunday, March 12, 2017, 17:52
By Gilroy Usher Sr.
Today our farmers in the Orange Walk and Cayo Districts are suffering huge financial losses after a bumper crop of potatoes because there is virtually no market for their product. This has occurred because the government put short term profit for a few over the long term interest of the country. The disgraceful act was perpetuated with the indiscriminate issuance of import permits for vegetables which has allowed government’s political cronies to flood the local market with cheaper Mexican potatoes. While we mourn the current huge financial loss to our potato farmers at the hands of the government, we must not forget that our farmers who dare to produce acres of cabbage, tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers and other vegetables suffer the same back-stabbing at harvest time as a result of dozens of import permits for vegetables that are issued wantonly by Belmopan.
With vast tracts of fertile lands in all six districts and a hardworking population, Belize has the potential to supply both the Caribbean and Central America with a huge percentage of its vegetables and other crops. That of course would result in thousands of needed jobs, huge foreign exchange for the country and a better life for our people.
Instead of working against the farmers with the indiscriminate issuance of import permits for vegetables, the Government through the Ministry of Agriculture should therefore assist our farmers in producing bigger and better products at competitive prices in a timely manner by undertaking the following:
- Work with farmers to determine the best type of soil and time for planting a crop to harvest bigger and better quality products.
- Hire agronomists and other experts in the field of agriculture to advise our farmers about the proper use of fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides and other materials to make their farms more efficient.
- Assist the farmers with the formation of cooperatives which can be of financial and technical benefit to them in countless ways.
- Invest in storage facilities in key areas of the country. That will enable the farmers to guarantee a profitable price for a crop by gradually easing it into the market to avoid its saturation which drives prices down to unprofitable levels.
- Have a Buy Belize Campaign throughout the year to increase sales for local products including those of our
- Work closely with the farmers to know the time of harvest for a specific crop and ban the issuance of import permit for such product ahead of time to ensure that when the crop is harvested our famers can rely on the local market to sell their products at a profitable price.
- Triple the fine for the illegal importation of vegetables and other crops produced locally, confiscate the illegal items and include prison time for anyone caught illegally importing such items into the country three or more times.
- Double the fine for vendors caught knowingly selling illegally imported vegetables and other crops and confiscate the illegal items.
- Work closely with neighboring countries in both Central America and the Caribbean to identify suitable markets for the export of our agriculture products.
- Establish a cadre of senior officers in the Ministry of Agriculture who have in-depth knowledge of agriculture and can therefore be of greater assistance to our farmers.
Only when we have a government that implements those and other basic policies which put the interest of our local farmers before the interest of political cronies will we be able to look forward to the day when the development of agriculture in Belize will truly make us the breadbasket of the region and help to guarantee our people a better life that they so rightly deserve.
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