Onion farmers are in good spirits and have expressed gratitude to the Minister of Agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai, after he personally attended to an issue of contraband onions. The Minister had reportedly ordered that a sting operation be carried out after receiving information that a supply of illegal onions was being brought into the country. On Thursday, July twenty-nine, the farmers from Maskall Village, Belize District officially thanked the Minister for his help. The Orellano brothers were in the news some three weeks ago reporting on an abundance of onions that were not being sold due to the presence of contraband. The media met up with Minister Mai who explained how the ministry had addressed the situation.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security & Enterprise: “Their production was one of the last ones. So in other words they planted late and they stored long so they were the last farmers to have onions on the local market so we knew that there wasn’t much onions on the market but when I saw on the news that they were unable to market the onions I knew something was wrong. So that was on Friday and on Saturday I went to Bomba to visit the warehouse and I saw that indeed they had an abundance of onion. When I say abundance is we’re a hundred and thirty thousand pounds but we from our figures we consume like ninety thousand pounds a week so that will be a week and a half the most and they were not able to sell it so something was wrong somewhere. I met with them, we decided what we would do. I then asked to meet with customs, BAHA and the police. We also knew at the same time that the intelligence unit had informed us that there was some onions that were supposed to come in illegally and they told us where they’re coming from so we activated a task force and I think we did well. The following week all the onions were gone so it just shows that the contraband is impossible to stop I guess we just try to manage it and for those who continue to contraband they’re hurting the economy and there’s a risk.”
The local onion farmers ordinarily harvest up to eight thousand sacks of onions for supply during the period, April to August. According to Minister Mai, this intervention is the kind of public private partnership that the ministry wants to foster with farmers.