Vegetable importers caught with contraband will be banned from future importation. This is the warning issued by the Ministry of Agriculture over the weekend. It came after a meeting between the Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai and vegetable importers, distributors and potato producers in the Orange Walk District. According to the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Servulo Baeza, the discussion centered around coming up with recommendations to ensure sustainability in the sector.
Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture: “What we’re trying to do is have more coordination between the importers and our local producers and that is just one of the things that was brought up last week Saturday there was a meeting between the importers and the producers and the ministry and so that’s just one of the things that was mentioned. Two fold is that one we’re trying to ensure that the importers purchase from our local producers. So what was agreed upon is that the local producer, the farmers would give them a receipt with a stamp on it and so when they come to apply for permits to import other vegetables they would have to show their receipts that they are buying from our local producers and so then those importers would get permits to import the other stuff that we are not producing. That is just to ensure or put in a mechanism to ensure that the importers who distribute countrywide are also helping to distribute the potatoes from our local producers. And it’s not only potatoes, onions or whatever else we’re producing they can get a receipt and so that will be a proof to the ministry that they are supporting the local farmers and also well we also put in that they also need to cooperate with us to control – well you know contraband will never disappear I don’t have any evidence of saying or there’s contraband potatoes right now but we just made sure that we put it out there that if any of the importers are caught with contraband goods I mean that would be a black eye for them and repercussion would be that we will not give them any more import permits. We work closely with BAHA so BAHA our quarantine officers are out there and they will check the markets and we also have our own agriculture officers that we have asked them right now to go out there and be very vigilant. It’s very easy, in terms of potatoes, very easy to differentiate between the Mexican potato and our local produced potato is the pink one so it’s very easy to notice. I must add though there is still some Mexican potato on the market which is not contraband because normally what happened is that at the beginning of the potato season you will still have some residue Mexican potato still on the market so you might find out that we still have some more like in the super markets, some grocery shops might still have some of the white potato but that is I think by next week that should be finished and then we will have local potato right now.”
Other issues discussed in the meeting were wholesale distribution, the issuance of permits and the price of local potatoes. Among the recommendations agreed upon is that the issuance of import permits be monitored before the harvest of local production. Producers will now provide importers who purchase from them a receipt to be stamped by the producers. Those receipts will then be showed to the relevant government department when they are applying to import products. Quite importantly, anyone caught with contraband products will be disallowed from further importation. Farmers and importers have also been advised that they cannot tamper with potato production by mixing local and imported products.