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Ministry of Agriculture Partners with Cayo Farmers to Export Corn to Guatemala

One hundred eighty metric tons of yellow corn is expected to be exported to Guatemala from farmers in the Cayo District. Today, Cayo Grain & Agro Supply Limited in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture officially launched the revival of the formal trade of yellow corn. The media was invited to the company’s compound in the Cayo District to witness the event. Our Cayo correspondent Eliu Yacab spoke to Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai who says that the revival of the industry falls in line with his government’s plan to revitalize the agriculture industry.

Jose Aberlardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “Thirteen years ago I was with the Ministry of Agriculture. At the time Dan Silva was the Minister of Agriculture who also similarly pushed for trade with Central America. We had an agreement under the reciprocal trade concept that we would import Maseca from Guatemala and we would export white corn to them. Now white corn is not easily exported to Guatemala under the partial scope agreement because it for human consumption and so Guatemala has the small farmers producing white corn but when there’s scarcity then it can be done. We had agreed with Guatemala that we would export white corn to them and import Maseca. At the time we had then I think Mr.Frank Redman who was the importer and he used to buy corn from the small farmer and export and import Maseca. In 2008 there was an election remember, the UDP won and that was killed. The Maseca importation was given solely to an individual from Benque with the last name Vega and there was no exportation of white corn after that. That was the end of that trade arrangement. We know that the largest importer of corn in the region is Guatemala in Central America. In North America the largest importer of corn is Mexico, they have huge populations that consume corn three times a day. We have a small population of three hundred and eighty of which fifty percent is Hispanic and therefore our corn consumption is not as great as Central America so we can sustain ourselves with corn but other countries really want the corn especially in a year like this where there is a scarcity of corn and the prices are increasing because the cost of agro inputs have gone up. I read a report last night that cost of production in the US is up by thirty percent so these you will see spikes in the prices of food. So I think that what we are doing today is again what we had planned to do. This was all planned. We have good farmers in this country. We have excellent quality corn as a matter of fact this corn going out today is grade one using the USDA grading system, grade one corn. The other corn that comes into Guatemala, Honduras from the US is not grade one.”

General Manager of the Valley of the Peace Farms Limited and Cayo Grain & Agro Supply Limited, Gilbert Cantun says the company has committed to providing the Guatemalan entity, Maseca, with over one million pounds of corn in the next two weeks.

Gilbert Canton, General Manager, Cayo Grain and Agro Supply: “As you said this is an investment. It’s about a $16 million dollar facility and what we od is we bring in wet corn from the farms we dry it we store it and then we look for customers to export to. Pretty much all of our corn goes to Guatemala. The majority oes out as ground corn across the border and right now we also do some whole corn to some bigger customers like Maseca and we’ve also exported to another company called Campechano Chicken in Guatemala. But the big deal today is really Maseca because it’s a product, it’s a name that everybody knows and it’s a product that we use a lot. So about 1.1 million pounds of corn, 11,000 hundred pound bags will be exported to Maseca over the next two weeks. Contract signed, all the paperwork is done and so we’re excited about that. Maseca is here as well they tell me that corn will be processed in Guatemala and then sent back to Belize. It’s not the first time that this has bene done this was done previously by a fellow named Mr.Frank Redmond and we’re excited to get the process started again.”

Also speaking on the benefits of the agreement was General Manager of Guatemalan company, Universa, Alvaro Rodriguez.

Alvaro Rodriguez, General Manager, Universa: “We’re aiming to finish up on Monday all the loading. It will be five initial yellow corn trucks and three second and white corn that is gonna go for the initial test run to Guatemala and Maseca Mill. If everything goes good we will sign a contract for the production of farmers locally in Belize and through this facility everything will go as prepared as Maseca’s quality of standards needs and we have passed those qualities so this is just the first one of plenty that will be beneficial for everybody. This is pretty much what we’re doing today. It’s a big deal for us, I think it’s a big deal for Belize that it’s sending raw material to get final product. I hope that in the near future we can send Belizean final product finished and to be able to put Belizean products away not only raw materials abroad.”

The Ministry of Agriculture said that this year the country is expected to have a bumper crop of corn and produce around two point two million bags of corn.///