Belizean Farmers Voice Concerns Over Agricultural Sector Issues in Ministry Meeting
Several farmers from across the country are up in arms over what they say are issues negatively impacting them in the agricultural sector. Today, the Ministry of Agriculture held its annual general meeting with vegetable farmers, stakeholders, and cooperatives, but instead of receiving good news, the ministry met complaints from some small farmers. The heated discussions surrounded issues such as produce quality, contraband, market access, and vegetable importation. The farmers feel they are being left to fight alone, and called on the ministry to do more. Love News was there and spoke to Maximiliano Hernandez, a farmer from San Carlos Village, who explained that local farmers feel disrespected and are having issues selling their produce.
Maximiliano Hernandez, Local Farmer: “We are producers but we have problems in selling our products because we have a lot of contraband, a lot of problems in the market. We try to discuss with the Minister of Agriculture and the station officer tried to resolve these problems in contraband and the special permit I don’t know what happened because the sentiment to the small farmers is that it’s not happy because we have problems to sell the market. The Minister of Agriculture tried to do the best this year becoming next crop season.”
Fem Cruz, Cayo Correspondent: Now what do you as a very experienced farmer, how could this be solved ?
Maximiliano Hernandez, Local Farmer: “Try to communicate more with the farmers. Visit more frequently the production field to show how we can produce the best quality, best product.”
Victor Pascual, the ministry’s Chief Agriculture Officer, explained that while the ministry understands the farmers’ plight, it is charged with ensuring consumers are provided with quality produce. Pascual explained that the ministry continues to work with local farmers and has implemented numerous programs aimed at assisting local producers.
Victor Pascual, Chief Agriculture Officer: “We need to understand from both angles the farmers are there to produce and sell their products. At the same time the consumer wants to ensure that they have quality product as well. If you notice what was presented some of the commodities were planted earlier than usual and some were planted later than usual and those that are usually planted out of season is where we have a gap as it relates to quality and the ministry cannot dictate and force consumers to purchase inferior products.”
Fem Cruz, Cayo Correspondent: But sir a couple of the farmers said that they are not getting the support to improve their product.
Victor Pascual, Chief Agriculture Officer: “Fem, as I indicated earlier the Ministry has done a lot of work with the farmers. We have several projects. We have the Climate Resilient Agriculture Project which is a $20 million US dollar project. We have the Rural Resilient Belize project which is another $25 million dollar project and some of these same farmers are benefitting. They’re benefitting from capacity building, they have improved roads in certain areas, they have storage material, they have training in climate smart practices so there are several capacity building that has taken place several infrastructure development that has taken place. You also understand or you also heard some of the farmers saying that the ministry is not providing to individuals but it is easier for the ministry to work with farmer groups and farmer organizations as opposed to each single individual farmer.”
Pascual added that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the way forward for the 2023-2024 crop season. We will continue to follow this development.