Minister of Enterprise Jose Mai has clarified that there will not be a ban on the importation of milk and cheese. Minister Mai spoke to Love News this evening where he explained that the need to regulate the quantity imported comes as a result of Belize having over one million pounds of mozzarella and cheddar cheese in stock.
Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security: ““There is 1.6 million pounds of cheddar and mozzarella cheese at our local processors which we are unable to market, 1.6 million pounds. That is a lot of cheddar and mozzarella and the reason why it cannot be sold is because we have enough imported mozzarella and cheddar on the shelves imported. That is the reason why we have to make these policy changes. The reason why there’s so much mozzarella and cheddar is because when we had the COVID shut down, when we had the pandemic affecting in March tourism just went away so milk consumption went down, cheese went down but you know you can’t stop the cows from giving milk because either you milk them and throw away the milk or make it into cheese. To avoid throwing it away they converted it into cheese because cheese can store better than milk. It takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese so they converted all the milk into cheese and stored it. Now we have all this amount of cheese stored, now we can’t sell it.”
According to Mai this move on the selected dairy products is only the beginning. He noted that there are other locally made products that need to be given more attention and priority by the government and consumers.
Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security: “We have to make the tough decisions here and to say listen while we’re not banning the importation of milk we are saying it has to be managed, there has to be a level of restriction or else the small industries will crumble and this is not only dairy this goes for all those who do juices; Big H Juices, CPBL Juices they pay 15-12.5% duty on bottles, lids and then they pay import duty and those who bring in juices from other parts don’t pay GST you are putting our manufacturers at a huge disadvantage and then people complain and say but you import one cheaper so I will buy the cheaper one. So we have to strike the balance like I say and while the Belizean has the right to decide what he or she wants to drink if she has an appetite for imported stuff like many Belizeans they will go for the Lala milk and for those who are nationalistic and patriotic and want to support the farmers they will buy the Belizean product. So we are saying that the Belizean people deserve the best in quality and price so we’re encouraging our manufacturers too to step up to the challenge.”
The limitation on the importation took effect on Friday, January 8.