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Agriculture Ministry highlights Challenges getting Belize products into CARICOM, looks to Central America and Mexico

Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai last week told Love News that he has several reservations about the hoops Belize has to go through to get its products into the CARICOM market. He cited some of the roadblocks poultry farmers have had to get Belizean chicken into the region. Reiterating the need to break some of those barriers was the Ministry’s CEO, Servulo Baeza. He spoke to Love News yesterday at Nago Bank.

Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “It has always been a challenge for us to get into the CARICOM market. I mean, there are so many reasons why, I mean, I could bring up, examples that we could bring up. Whether our beans is not red enough, our sugar is a different colour, our poultry, it takes so long to get there that the permit expired and now they’re trying to. It’s not easy. It’s so difficult. So logistically for us, logistically for us to get into the CARICOM market, it seems it’s a nightmare. Right here beside us, we have Central America, we have Mexico, which have huge markets. They import a lot of things that we produce and so, I mean it was just logically that we should be looking in to see how we get into those markets. Importantly. Importantly, a lot of, over the years we’ve had a lot of migration. A lot of Central Americans, people from Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador coming into our country producing things that they brought with them, culturally that they eat at home and so those are the things now that we can say okay now, try to get those products right back into those countries.”

Baeza added that Belize’s position is not to close off CARICOM and shift to Mexico and our Central American neighbours. The Ministry is hoping Belize can step into as many open doors as possible.

Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “I think, the sense is that we’ve lost confidence. You know? We feel it’s so difficult but we’re not giving up. We cannot. As part of CARICOM, I think we have to continue lobbying. We need to continue working. A good example, for instance, is the sugar case where we took Trinidad to court because they were not paying the C.E.T. for the sugar that they were importing. Whilst we did not, well we might say that we did not win the case, but measures are now being put in place to ensure that they do pay the C.E.T. now if they import from extra-regional sources. So something was gained there and that is what we might probably have to do with other things that we want to import from them. There are other things that they’ve been trying in the past. Western Dairies went and established their own store in Grenada and so now, they export to themselves in Grenada, ice cream for instance. So, maybe that’s another thing that we might have to do. Set up a business in one of these islands so that we can then export to ourselves and then distribute amongst the islands. So there are some other strategies that we have to look at but, very key is the private sector because Government and the ministries will not really do those things. No? So the private sector has a very important role to play but at the same time, we can’t just depend on that. We have to look at other options and so, I must say that with Minister Mai, as the minister, you know he’s very, he’s passionate about this so he’s knocking on everybody’s doors and trying to see where we can export our products.”