EU, Sugar and Impacts on Belize

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Updated: April 4, 2017

Two weeks ago we brought you the story on the possible effects that our local sugarcane farmers could face due to the European Union’s decision to remove limits on its own beet-sugar output.  That decision was made some five years ago and is slated to take effect in October.  With that decision in place, Belize and other exporting nations could face a serious hit on its sugar industry as the demand for the commodity will more than likely decrease.  Agriculture’s Chief Executive Officer, Jose Alpuche spoke to Love News on how the Government is moving in addressing this concern.

JOSE ALPUCHE

“Well first and foremost the decision was not recently made this was made well over five years ago and we knew that 2017 would come upon us the October 2017 deadline so its not new, the meeting that was recently held in Jamaica, the stakeholders meeting, discussed this issue in-depth but with all commodities there is never an agreement on what the full impact will be because its a lot of projections going forward however the worst case scenario seems to suggest a 24% drop in prices and of course the impact of that would be real on our farmers if indeed the price drop materializes. Though I must say some of the commodity traders don’t believe that it will be a full 24% drop but we just have to work as it comes. At the core of all of this has been what we’ve been doing over the last many years to try to push the farmers to become more competitive that is at the core. We’ve known for the last fifteen years that the reform of the European market was in train and we would indeed arrive at this point where the erosion that we had both in terms of our real access to the market but also per country access to the market that it would materialize and that we would have an impact. Unfortunately that is where we are, we will be meeting with farmers later this week to update them on what came out of the Jamaica meeting and to try to urge them again and offer to them the facilitation rule that government has been taking* as it relates to the reform of the market.”

CEO Alpuche says that the ministry is making an effort to encourage the sugarcane farmers to look at diversification.

JOSE ALPUCHE

“We’ve been pushing very hard from the agriculture perspective, you are aware that we have a honey and a reform of the onion project ongoing up in the Corozal and Orange Walk district. We’ve been pushing the implementation of tropical greenhouse for people to diversify out into vegetables and we have several programs on going to try to diversify. What we found is a reluctance from some of the farmers to diversify out of sugar cane into other products. Although as we’ve demonstrated to them the earnings per acre is far higher with alternative products than sugar and we believe that this gap will only widen if indeed the sugar prices decline.”

The ministry will be meeting with farmers later this week to continue the discussion on the way forward with sugar.