Minister of Agriculture Rene Montero says government will not leave onion farmers in the north out in the cold. Close to a million pounds of onions were left to rot in the field because of an over saturation of the local market due largely to the government’s importation of the vegetable from Holland.
In an interview with Love News done during the just concluded National Agriculture and Trade Show in Belmopan, Minister Montero said help is on the way for the farmers who lost thousands of dollars in investment when the onions could not be sold locally. But Montero says changes have to be made first so that what happened this year will repeat itself.
Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture:
“We are committing ourselves that next year we are going to take the bull by the horn and work with all stakeholders even involving the credit people, the institutions that offer credit so that they do not lend to the farmers unless they plant at a certain time, they cannot plant at the same time otherwise this thing will be repeated on a cycle, every year we will have the same thing. It is the same thing with vegetables, we encourage farmers not to plant tomatoes at the same time because when there is a bumper crop the prices go down, it is good for the consumer but the farmer does not make any money. That is one of the biggest challenge for us to insist that the farmers plant staggered because the market for onions is very small here in Belize and the technology for storage is not here yet, we don’t have it. The only country that has the technology for storage is Holland. We will do our best to see how we will help them to recover that loss. We will probably help them in terms of, help them with technical assistance, help them to prepare their lands, offer them seeds, and offer them fertilizers so we are going to work with them, we will not leave them by themselves. We will go there and offer what we can offer and also give them their resources so they can plant again because we want to be self sufficient in onions we want to reduce importation.’
Montero says that Belize currently has the potential to supply only twenty five percent of the local demand for onion, something which he says better policies and practices should improve on in the coming months. Meanwhile, rice farmers in the south have also been given an assurance that the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation will be buying all the rice they produce this year.
Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture
“When we came into office 2008 the farmers were producing just 2 million pounds of rice and again we assist them with land preparation, with fertilizers, better seeds, and better training and now the farmers are producing up to about 7 to 8 million pounds of paddy. The Government is committed to buy all the rice that the farmers produce. We are committed to that. Parallel to that we are seeking markets. Right now we are negotiating with Taiwan, we are negotiating with El Salvador and trying to see if we can form a partial scope agreement like we did with Guatemala so that we will be able to export our rice to El Salvador. Right now we are not competitive because we have to pay a duty but once we sign this partial scope agreement they won’t charge us any duty and then we will be competitive. I want to tell the farmers to rest assured that we are committed to buy all the rice they produce.”