Last week the Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Agriculture, Jose Alpuche told us that about twenty eight million dollars in crop has been lost due to the drought affecting the region. Alpuche told us that the drought is expected to be over with in November but what has been lost cannot be recovered. So now the plan is to prepare for when it happens again.
” We’ve discussed in the past and actually it’s one of the things that we are actively looking at, is to design a water management plan and use basically from the river valley all the way to the Rio Hondo as a pilot area to design a water management plan for the entire region. Simply put that in the long term we expect that this will be a recurring feature. Water use irrigation and even drainage because you will recall less than two years ago we had severe rains, we need to begin doing some substantial projects to make the country and make the sector more resilient to these changing weather patterns.”
Reporter: and in terms of financing that will require cabinet ?
” That water management plan is a huge undertaking. We’ve started some preliminary work on it. One of the first things we discovered is that the topographic maps of the country are not good enough to underpin a study of that nature so we started looking at producing new maps. We are looking at the various technologies. Lieder for example is good; you get a lot of data but the initial estimate for that is like $7 million dollars and you’re not even talking about engineering designs as yet in terms of water management plan. This is not something that will be done in a very short period of time it will have to be done over a substantive period of time with quite frankly what we would call legacy investments because they will be substantive investments that would have to go into the ground.”
Alpuche says that the Ministry has spoken to the farmers and asked them to satisfy the local market and not export their goods to other countries
“and in asking them not to export its not that we are asking them to forego income because the income will come from the domestic sales so we are asking them not to export so that we can avoid having to go to import because as I said it’s a region wide phenomenon and multiple countries are affected so even getting produce in would be a difficult.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: Would consumers expect higher prices?
“It is likely that prices will go up for some of the basic commodities simply because corn is well beyond corn that is a feed stock and a number of other products in the sector so we expect that prices will go up.”
While it is expected that the drought will be over within two months, it took the Ministry of Agriculture just nine months to get rid of the Avian Influenza virus in Belize. Belize has been declared free of the virus and CEO Apluche says that measures will be undertaken to keep our Avian Influenza free status.
” The threat is real, the threat is ever present because one of the pathway of infection is actually migratory wild birds. You see what is happening in the US they’ve had a die off and depopulation of about 81 million birds in twenty one states in the US. So it’s something that we have to be ever vigilant about. The farmers are doing what they can to rapidly improve their biosecurity measures. We will have to take some difficult decisions too about creating buffer zones to protect the commercial flocks meaning that people can’t grow poultry in certain areas close to commercial flocks and there is a number of measures that we will have to take to ensure that we can have a secure poultry sector. As you know it’s one of the meat protein of choice in Belize and if this is devastated we would have sever socio economic impact on all of us.”
More than eighty thousand chicken were killed in the process of eliminating the virus. The cost was estimated at over six million dollars.