Contraband Potatoes Cause Issues for Farmers
The Ministry of Agriculture is trying to solve the “potato problem” that small farmers in the west and north are currently facing. Thousands of pounds of potatoes are rotting, leaving farmers out thousands of dollars. Agriculture Minister, Godwin Hulse says they have been meeting with the farmers to address the issue on how to save the potatoes but the problem goes beyond that.
“Contraband, because that is one of our biggest enemy and until we can get on top of that and until the Belizean importer has an conscience and realize that we are working in one country and if you kill this off then the time will come when you will be totally foreign dependent, I don’t control customs but we have appeal to customs to please pull out all thee stops and the police to try to get on top of contraband. Last but not least I want to say this because I’ve understood by some importers and some users, restaurant people that it’s not all the potatoes that is satisfactory for mashed potatoes, French fries and chips so all of those things have to be looked at as well to make sure that the quality of potato that is grown is one that you the consumer wants. Then of course talking about price remember again the government has a responsibility to provide for all the nation. You all lik to say that 44% of our people are poor so you can’t put high priced food on them so all of that takes a balance. We have set up a potato working committee that is a standing committee now that has importers, producers, that has Ms.Palacio at the head of it and it’s that kind of thing that we to try to get on top of it. I can’t speak to what other ministers or people did before because policy is not only made many times at cabinet level it’s made at the individual ministry level. I think everyone here knows that I have a serious passion for agriculture stuff and this kind of thing particularly post-harvest storage and that sort of thing and it is not the forum to go into the pains and monies I’ve lost being in agriculture. In fact if it wasn’t for those things I would not really know what a government is like or cared, I would still be in private sector doing my thing. I just happened to have gotten into this because it’s something that I want to try to fix so we will be pushing with those people to try to see how we can bring this about. We will be pushing with onion people and we will be pushing with producers at all levels to see how people just do this hard work, produce a product, can’t sell it, have to throw it away that is very painful and discouraging and we want to see how we can bring an end to that.”
Officials from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) have been carrying out inspection for contraband goods.