Cane farmers from the Orange Walk District gathered in Trial Farm Village for an open day that was organized by the Sugar Industry Research Development Institute. Reporter Sitnah Blease was there and filed this report.
Sitnah Blease: “With the recent cost of sugar prices being extremely low, many cane farmers struggle at the mere thought of financial expenses. Today, however, the Sugar Industry Research Development Institute, SIRDI, has hosted their third annual field day for sugarcane farmers, which is used to educate farmers on the various different options available to them. Marcus Osorio, Director of SIRDI, explains the purpose of the event and what it entails.”
Marcus Osorio Director of Sirdi: “Primarily it’s about information to farmers, share about present issues in the industry and as you know the whole country knows at his moment about the price of cane paid to cane farmers which is a very low price which was anticipated of course but which also means that brings about crisis in the Northern Districts of Belize and also for the country because Sugar is one of the largest revenue earner for the country in terms of the US currency so that impacts heavily in the north. Our biggest concern at this moment is we know education; farmers do their best and put all their effort to ensure that they can get their kids to high school, to sixth form, University and usually this time around when schools are already opened some of them have started the new school year farmers would use their second payment from their sugar cane proceeds to pay for their tuition. This time around is a completely different situation we are in. I know and we are sure that most farmers don’t have that cash flow.”
Sitnah Blease: “TEXBEL, a company known for its intercropping and maximizing of land use, was invited to speak on a possible collaboration with the farmers. Yanis Murcia, an agronomist at TEXBEL, explains more.”
Yanis Murcia: “We are very excited to be here today because we are just starting to collaborate with them because we are trying to do different projects right now as it is and one of our different projects is to expand with the coconut production in Belize so our aim here is to get more farmers to produce the variety that we are producing at Maya Center. At this stage what we are doing we have a little bit of everything at the farm. We have some limes, soursop, plantains and we have cocoa so our aim is to meanwhile the coconut are growing you have other crops like pineapple as well so you have other incomes in between so you don’t have to wait 3 – 4 years for the coconut come in production you have income in the short term.”
Sitnah Blease: “Also having the best interest of the farmers at heart, La Inmaculada Credit Union along with DFC are making it possible for farmers to receive loans, therefore enabling them uplift themselves in their current economic crisis. Giovanni Argalles, Marketing Officer for the La Inmaculada Credit Union shares on behalf of the company.”
Giovanni Argalles, Marketing Officer for the La Inmaculada Credit Union: “The industry is really facing something very difficult right now with the drastic drop in cane prices and we all know here in the North that this is the main sources of income for the majority of the families here. It’s difficult for us to do any type of activity to counter these types of things because you know it’s more a world wide situation that’s occurring but at La Inmaculada Credit Union we believe that knowledge is power and in education we empower our members, owners and cane farmers and the public at large for them to be aware what the circumstances are, what they can do and what they need to be thinking about when it comes to accessing financial services or engaging in any type of investment at any point in time so it is of utmost importance for us to be here and engage with our cane farmers because the more prepared they are to make their decisions regarding their sugar cane loans or loans in general the better they are equipped to make the rational decisions that will take them to success.”
Sitnah Blease: “Love News also spoke to Mr. Lauro Ku, who has been a sugarcane farmer for over the past thirty years. He shares his perspective on today’s Field Day.”
Lauro Ku: “The proceeds is not what we expected it but then I think the objective of today’s Dia de Campo is to help us know how to handle this situation. Probably trying to maintain the cost of production as low as we could and that is what I am trying to do without this workshop. I am trying to sustain my cane field with as much less cost as possible. I think it is very healthy to diversify; having sugar cane is excellent. I practice diversification a little bit. I plant corn, I plant beans and I am trying to plant vegetables; not for mass production but for my own consumption and listening to the company for this coconut production it really motivates me to get into it because one we will have market to sell our products and that is one of the main reasons that can motivate me to go into it because once the production starts there will be a sure company that will buy our products.”
Marcus Osorio, SIRDI’s Director states that this year’s field day was a little different this year since it focused more on the current issues being experienced by cane farmers. They discussed cost of sugarcane production, sugarcane varieties, and crop diversification.