Drought impacts farmers in northern Belize

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Updated: September 8, 2015

A drought is affecting the region and as a result millions of dollars are being lost by day in the agriculture sector the country.  The area most affected is north-western Belize, considered the breadbasket of the country.

Arturo Cantún reporting…

The sky the over south western part of Orange Walk district looks cloudy but there is little chance heavy rainfall is expected in the few days or even weeks. This dry season has extended beyond the normal period in the year and as a result thousands, if not millions, stand to be lost due to this natural phenomena. We visited several agricultural communities in the Orange Walk district and the situation is grim as it pertains to damaged crop due to the very dry season.  For this time of the year, grains such as corn, soy beans and rice are the most affected. John Knelsn and his brothers have been planting in this region for 25 years and this is the first time drought has effected them this severely. 

John Knelsn – Farmer

“We have 550 acres of corn planted.  We have 170 acres of soy beans.  And like you have seen, we have lost everything.   This is the first year we have lost everything.   There have been dry season in previous years but we managed to save some crop and balance our expenses at the end of the crop.  But this year we see that it will be a complete loss.”

Arturo Cantun – Love News

“Like the Knelsn brothers are many other farmers that are feelings the same effects of the drought.  Abelardo Mai, who is an agronomist by profession has been in communication with the farmers in his constituency and has carried out an assessment of the damages.  The results are not good for the farmers or as a matter of fact the nation.

Abelardo Mai – Area Representative, OW South

“The farmers are undergoing serious problems right now, of course they will suffer losses in the millions of dollars but besides the farmers losing the economic effects are national. The cost of food, the cost of poultry, pork meat, corn tortillas and tacos will be affected by this drought.

Arturo Cantun – Love News

“How would you describe the damage done to these farmers? Some are talking about one hundred percent loss, would you say that this is what is reflected with almost all farmers in these areas?

Abelardo Mai – Area Representative, OW South

“From what I’ve seen there is a certain portion of corn under the systems as you may have seen but this is only the minimal part of the production. So the vast majority is rain fed and that is what is being affected so we are saying that we might have up to 95% losses in corn.

Arturo Cantun – Love News

“The losses to these farmers keep mounting as the days goes by as more of the acres of plantation fall victim to the excess sun and no rainfall.  Added to this is the fact that almost all farmers borrowed to invest in the fields and it’s now time to starting honoring their loans.

John Knelsn – Farmer

“We have some money borrowed from the bank.  From that crop we will not get anything, no return.  We are hoping that the government can help us all.  At this moment we don’t know how but we want the window of opportunity.  Maybe they can give us soft loans or very low interest loans.  This will allow us to get on our feet.  We are not expecting the government to give us free money, which is not want we are asking.  We want the window of opportunity.  Among us brothers we have lost around $450,000.”

Arturo Cantun – Love News

“The farmers we spoke with explained that last week they were informed that representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture will meet with them to look into the situation.  They gathered and waited but no one arrived for the meeting.”