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Banana Project launched in the Banana Belt of Belize

The Inter-American for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) in collaboration with the European Union has launched an eighteen-month project for the “Productivity enhancement of Banana Farms through integrated soil fertility management in the Banana Belt of Belize” to the tune of 2.3 million Euro dollars. Derek Charles, IICA National Specialist, spoke about the project.

Derick Charles – IICA National Specialist

“Two approaches they hope to achieve is to build the capacity of farmers and technicians to diagnose general and site and specific problems so there could be general problems among our banana growers and there could be site-specific problems. As you would have known that some issues are more pronounced on some farms than others. And then to monitor and to evaluate the impact of intervention practices on a more real-time basis. So these are the two, so what the projects seems to the technical people together with the banana growers we agree that we will come up with an integrated soil fertility management practice or intervention which focus on building nutrients and microbial capital in soil and it will take different phases first of all the explorative work which we did when we were here last year then training and demo we are going to train farmers on demonstration plot and then it is up to the farmers to scale up.”

Dr. Gabriel Rodriguez Marques, IICA Belize Representative, said that IICA technicians will be committed to the project in order to achieve the best results. Marques went on to speak about IICA’s role.

Dr. Gabriel Rodriguez Marques, IICA Belize Representative

“IICA as specialized agriculture agency on the framework of the OAS holds a strong mandate to contributing to improve life conditions of family that live in the rural areas of the Americas through the project it implements and its member countries and its partnership and the collaboration with the ministries focused an agriculture and rural development and also I wish to underline this partnership with EU. It is not only here in Belize, it’s also in the Caribbean, in Central America that we are working very close with European Union on different issues. For the IICA delegation in Belize this collaboration will provide its keen understanding of its priority areas of needs in the country and combined with technician concentration programs make IICA a strong partner which can effectively play a pivotal role on agriculture development of Belize.”

Elroy Foreman of the Banana Growers Association pointed out that the Banana Industry provides jobs for over three thousand Belizeans and welcomed the assistance.

Elroy Foreman – Member of the Banana Growers Association

“I can stand here proudly and say that within the agricultural sector the banana industry is one of the most stable. Those couple sentences make it sounds as though everything is fine and as smooth ride for the industry but I can assure you it is not without significant challenges. As the Tariff protection has been reduced along with still fiercer competition within the large multinational companies purchasing bananas on a global scale. We, the Belize Banana industries, have to adapt, improve our ways and increase efficiencies in order to be able to stay in the business. This is a great challenge we experience price reduction for fruit and increase in the cost of materials along with indications of increase in taxes and salaries to be added to this. There has always been changes and challenges. At this juncture, I must say we are so grateful especially to the European Union for their significant assistance in preparing the banana growers to deal with some of these changes and challenges that are confronting us here today.”

Malgorzata Wasilewska, Ambassador of the European Union also spoke about the project

Malgorzata Wasilewska, Ambassador of the European Union

“This particular project, I think what I like about it is so much is that it is focusing on things that will contribute also to something that is very dear to us in Europe but not only fortunately Mr. Trump doesn’t have too many supporters because climate change and environment protection are extremely important to all of us so that fact that it focuses on sustainability of the production, improving the fertility of the soil but contribute towards organic fertilization are very important. There is great demand in Europe for organic and green market products and hopefully, you will be able to tap into this a little bit better because at least in our countries citizens are prepared and willing to pay a little bit more for a good organic product.”

The University of Belize is also collaborating on the project.