There has been a longstanding economic cooperation between the European Union and Belize promoting sustainable development and poverty reduction. One of its largest collaborative efforts have been in the sugar industry where under the Accompanying Measure for Sugar Program, the EU has funded a number of projects that have not only had a direct impact on famers but have also benefited the communities in the northern sugar belt. That however, will soon end as the EU cuts preferential prices on sugar from Belize and other sugar producing nations. This becomes effective in October this year. Today Political Councilor at the EU delegation covering Belize, Gavin Tech, told the media despite the changes and challenges ahead, Belize has over the years built a solid foundation and should be able to withstand the coming tides.
“We’ve all known this day would come so we have spent the last ten years preparing for it and from what I’ve seen today and what I’ve heard today from cane farmers themselves from all those involved in the project overall Belize is adjusting to the big change coming up and there are a lot of positives going forward so from where I stand we are quite pleased with what we have delivered together in partnership in the ten years and I have every confidence that the industry in Belize will go from strength to strength.”
“Are there any concerns that there will be any transitional tremors for the industry when we move directly from that preferential market status?”
“We are in the realms of speculation here and of course one of the key driving factors is world market prices and unfortunately none of us has a crystal ball so I think there is the healthy approach of hope for the best plan for all sorts of contingencies but as I said the industry has got a solid foundation and has been preparing carefully for the day ahead.”.
Since the cooperation was started, the EU has funding million of dollars worth of projects in the country. That assistance ceases this year.
“The assistance directly on the sugar program will cease at that point but our overall level of assistance to Belize, our partnership with the Belize Government continues and go from strength to strength. Delighted to say that Belize was the only country in the Caribbean in the last negotiations for development funds to actually receive an increase so we are working very closely with the national authorizing office here and we will see a lot of work going forward in the areas of energy, health, public finance management. So nobody should be under the illusion that this is the end; we may be changing our focus a shift of focus but our partnership is enduring and it will get bigger and better. Get to this point we have spent in excess of about $50 million Euros I’m not going to do the calculation in Belize dollars in my head because I fear I would get that wrong but it has been a long journey over the last ten years or so, it’s difficult to isolate particular costs of particular projects but if we look at this as an overall package its somewhere between $50 million and $60 million.”