The citrus industry in Belize is one that employs hundreds of workers and thus contributes greatly to the government’s revenue. Tonight, we can tell you that there is trouble in the land of oranges and grapefruits and with an estimated forty to forty five thousand acres dedicated to the citrus trees, if immediate attention is not given by the Government, there is much at stake. Yesterday, Leader of the Opposition spoke briefly on the troubles surrounding the agriculture industry including citrus.
“We do have serious challenges in agriculture in the that price continues to go down, many farmers are not collecting enough money to be able to pay for the cutting and loading of their sugar cane, the Fruta Bomba that are closing down, we have the shrimp farms that after six months they are going to be out of production, we have a 1,000 acres of bananas that is going to nothing and citrus with the Citrus Greening continues to go down as it is right now. I’ve been told and they are telling me that the Citrus Farmers are not even being paid because the factory had made a $5 million US loan which has been approved by the bank but Central Bank has not met to give the approval since last year November and as to up to last week they have not been given an approval of that loan. We have all of these pressing issues.”
That interview with Opposition Leader, John Briceno was conducted yesterday morning. Today, a joint release from the Belize Citrus Growers Association and the Citrus Products of Belize came out, confirming just what Briceno spoke about. With a pay period upon them, growers will not be able to receive their monies due to an unprocessed application to Heritage Bank for working capital finance. Apparently, the monies applied for, needs approval from the Central Bank of Belize and with no convened meetings since November 2015 that approval remains pending. The joint release reads, in part, quote, “CPBL remains uncertain as to when it will have access to the financing facility. The Company has gone to great lengths to advocate for a timely attention to this matter but it has become apparent that all such efforts to date have been fruitless. The Citrus Growers Association has brought this matter to the attention of the relevant authorities, stressing the urgency of this situation and the human and economic hardship it is bringing to the workers, the growers and other industry stakeholders.” End of quote. The release ended by assuring the growers that they will continue advocating for a resolution on this matter in order to prevent further irrevocable damage from being done to the citrus industry.