The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Immigration have launched their Farmer Assistance Program to assist farmers across the country that were affected by COVID-19. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture along with the World Bank are diverting sixteen million Belize dollars to improve food security amid the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Godwin Hulse the agriculture sector faced three hardships which were market contraction due to covid, drought and floods. According to the World Bank the money will benefit almost nine thousand agricultural households in Belize. During today’s press conference Minister Hulse gave a full breakdown on where the funds are being distributed.
Godwin Hulse, Minister of Food and Agriculture: “Under this component we have poultry $1.54 million, dairy $110,000. We have vegetables $190,000. We have cattle $2 million and I will talk a little bit more about cattle as well. We have pigs $346,000. We have sheep $200,000. We have shrimp – some of the shrimp farmers have suffered significantly as well they didn’t suffer from drought of course but they suffered from market contraction due to the limitation in exports and that sort of thing they’re getting $400,000. Grains $2.55 million dollars goes to grains. That is for a subtotal of $7.3 million dollars. The post harvest management I spoke about which goes principally to vegetable farmers that’s $1 million. The support to small farmers: $500 per farmer that will come up to $2.6 million dollars. And then the drought component of this will be vegetables $2.7 million, sugar cane $2 million for a subtotal of $4.7 million and then there’s a small technical assistance because you know this can’t happen by itself we have to hire some people to help with management of the paperwork and that sort of thing we have allocated a little over $200,000 for that. That makes up our total $16 million.”
There will be two methods in which the money will be disbursed one through cash transfer and the other through vouchers. Dr. Victor Pascual explained how these two methods will be executed, adding that only the agriculture stakeholders who are registered in the Belize Agricultural Information Management System (BAIMS) will benefit.
Dr.Victor Pascual, Water Management & Climate Change: “The farmers had to suffer sever losses during the 2019 drought. The commodities under market contraction and drought must contribute to food security and socio economic development of our country. All women who are part of the information management system will receive cash transfer and all the males who have below twenty acres will also receive cash transfer. Now as we speak of the cash transfer component which is quite relevant the Minister has mentioned that $500 will be given to all the farmers who meet the criteria under this component so what will happen is that a debit card will be issued to all the farmers who met the criteria. The suppliers will give these vouchers the input as it pertains to what is written on the voucher. Once they get their inputs from the supplier and mind you we are specifically indicating that these people will get their inputs because we want the inputs to go directly back in the field therefore they will go to the supplier, get their inputs and then go to put those inputs back in their field. The supplier then will be paid not by the Ministry but by SIF so once these people get their inputs then SIF will be making the payments directly to the suppliers. The Ministry has no hand in what so over as it relates to payment and so forth the Ministry has contacted all the suppliers in the country in order to ensure that there is transparency. We’ve contacted all the suppliers and we’ve asked them if they want to participate in this program some of them have agreed to participate and some of them have refused but in order to ensure transparency all was invited.”
According to Minister Hulse the farmers and agroproducers had up until May 30 to register in the database.