The last we reported on cattle exportation was the informal trading that was happening via the Bullett Tree Road in the Cayo District. Prime Minister explained a few weeks ago that it was an illegal trade and that the Guatemalan authorities opted to address the matter, requiring a better way. In yesterday’s press conference the Prime Minister provided us with an update.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “In terms of Mexico I’ve spoken to the Mexican ambassador to ask him to transmit some request for there to be some waiver or reduction of the tariff and he came back to say that that’s not looking very likely. From what our minister tells me it may be that even with the tariff some limited export of cattle from Belize into Mexico is still possible and so that is being worked on. With Guatemala another reason why we thought we would relent and take the chance in allowing the corn people to go all the way to Spanish Lookout is because it does seem as though there is some movement and we wouldn’t have wanted to stop it in terms of the effort to begin now a formal legal trade in cattle between Belize and Guatemala. The local Belize Livestock Producers Association had already gotten together with BAHA, there had been exchanges with the counterparts in Guatemala and it appears as though movement is taking place in that regard.”
Recently, there was also the situation at the western border where truckers blocked the Melchor de Mencos bridge. It all boiled down to the corn trade and investors being blocked from getting their corn from Spanish Lookout. The government made concessions at the border to allow the Guatemalans in the country so as to not interfere with revenues for the corn producers in Belize. Prime Minister went into detail yesterday to explain the situation.
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: “The Ministry and Minister of Immigration received reports as to in one case or on one day last week something like 46 Guatemalans coming in with trucks and of course the drivers of those trucks and other personnel into our country and going as far south as Stann Creek in one case to deliver packing crates I believe for the banana industry. Now we all know that from time to time there would be slippages but that was all together too much and so the immigration department decided that this had to stop and began insisting that the protocols that had been agreed, though clearly not observed, should now rule. That is you’re bringing in cargo from Guatemala there is a point a sort of exchange point at which if you’re talking about cargo in trailers the trailers can be unhitched from the Guatemalan vehicles and re-hitched to Belizean vehicles with Belizean drivers and they’re the ones that should bring in the cargo. There is one case I won’t call the individual’s name but that particular person hit on the bright idea of licensing trucks that he owned in both Guatemala and Belize so when his cargo is coming in from Guatemala and he meets that transfer point all he did was to change the license plates of the vehicle, took off the Guatemalan plates and put on Belizean plates. Well there’s no way you can argue against that sort of creativity and that sort of ingenuity the trucks were properly licensed in Belize, insured everything but there is the question of those trucks still being driven by Guatemalan drivers immigration said that must stop and that was agreed to by that particular importer. The bridge though was blocked, the border crossing was blocked by those Guatemalans that were interested in and in fact were really I think were the part of the purchase of corn from the Mennonites in Spanish Lookout. What immigration proposed, they insisted the Guatemalans, that they must come in with their trucks and their personnel go straight through to Spanish Lookout, purchase their corn, load their corn in Spanish Lookout and then turn around and go back home. Immigration first said ‘no that can’t happen you must like as with other cargo you must arrange for some kind of transfer” so it would have meant that the Mennonites would have had to bring the corn to the border and transfer the corn from Belizean trucks or from Belizean containers to Guatemalan trucks and Guatemalan containers. That ran up hard though against one issue it was from what I understood could have been done as a matter of logistics but the Guatemalans said no they purchased corn on a spot basis for this reason. They, according to them, need to make sure number one that the quality of corn that they’re getting is satisfactory so they needed to examine the corn before it was loaded, they needed to make sure that the quantity of corn that they were getting would be exactly what they were paying for and they were saying the only way of ensuring that their interests were satisfied was for them to go to Spanish Lookout examine the corn, agree the price then and there see even the price depended on the quality of corn you were getting and so they needed to go they insisted to go to Spanish Lookout and do the purchasing and the loading into their vehicles at that point. It took us a while or a day or so to reconcile ourselves to that position because it meant that technically you’re breaching the SI Guatemalan trucks and Guatemalan drivers accompanied by the purchaser or purchasers would be coming into our country and going to Spanish Lookout but there are no perfect solutions and unlike the situation with the beef where that was an illegal trade the corn trade is legal and we know that the Mennonites had already suffered in terms of the cessation of the cattle exports and so we felt listen the trucks would be sprayed at the border, their personnel would be screened, would be checked I don’t know if there’s such a thing as spraying personnel I don’t want to get like President Trump but whatever as much as could be done by the health authorities would be done and then the trucks would be escorted by customs to make sure that no hanky panky would take place at the point of loading but subject to those cautions or precautionary measures it was thought so as not to have the Mennonites lose the corn market we would run the risk I talked to Jules earlier to do the balancing act so we decided we would run the risk and allow those people to go to Spanish Lookout under escort and complete their transactions there.”