Last week we reported on the carrot crisis at the Michael Finnegan Market, where vendors were up in arms over having to sell only local carrots. The situation arose after the Ministry of Agriculture placed a temporary ban on the importation of carrots from Mexico. However, the vendors argued that the local carrots were not of good quality and their shelf life was hurting revenues. In response to the situation today, the Ministry took the media out on a field trip to San Carlos Village in the Orange Walk District. Reporter Vejea Alvarez has the story.
If you’ve recently been unable to find carrots at the local markets worry no more because the farmers in San Carlos Village are harvesting over thirty pounds of carrots just this week. Today the Ministry of Agriculture invited the media to witness the harvesting of local carrots after several vendors claimed that the Ministry’s ban on issuing licenses for imported carrots was hurting their pockets. But despite their cries according to the Ministry’s CEO Servulo Baeza local farmers come first.
Servulo Baeza, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture: “”The policy of the government is always to support local produce. So as long as there’s local production of any of our products wether it be carrots, whether it be potatoes, whether it be onions, whether it be celery, anything we will not allow importation to come in, simple as that.”
The vendors also complained of the price and quality of local carrots not being as attractive as the imported product but according to the Ministry’s District Coordinator Barry Palacio the farmers aren’t to blame.
Barry Palacio, District Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture: “At times we have some persons who are predatory on this situation and then they try to gouge out or they use prices that are exorbitantly high taking advantage of the situation. Now whenever we transition from the imported product and remember we at the Ministry we have shortened the life span of import permits because we had difficulties in the past in that a license would take so long before the product will actually come in and then it was difficult to program so that the imported product would not clash with the local commodity. So we moved from an eleven day turnaround to a seven day turnaround and in so doing we ensure that the imported products are cleared off the market and the local produce can then enter without that challenge.”
Almost fifty percent of carrots produced locally are sourced from the farmers here in San Carlos and according to Palacio the carrots these farmers produced are just as good. He says the reason for last week’s issue with the rotting carrots was caused by the middle man who failed to follow the right safety protocols.
Barry Palacio, District Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture: “Remember I mentioned earlier that the policy is to facilitate local produce. In so doing some people want to take advantage of it and they have no regard to grading and they sell the general public items that are substandard.”
Agreeing with Palacio was the village chairman and Secretary of the New River Farmers Association Maximiliano Hernandez. He says that the reason behind the vendors making a fuss over local carrots has to do with the supply chain and distribution.
Maximiliano Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos Village: “The small farmers here in San Carlos try to do the best especially the producers of carrots. When we prepare the amount, they put the order from buyers from the middleman they come, they see the carrots, they say it’s good, they have in the market for thirty years they have a good experience. They say ‘Okay this is good let’s go put it.’ why when I go to the market we have complaint ? Maybe depending on storage, the management, on the road, they put it in their truck bad that’s why the farmer doesn’t have all problems. We have a big chain, the producer the buyers, the distributer anything we have problem ?|”
Despite the challenges faced Hernandez says that the scarcity of the root will not be an issue for the remainder of the year. However the farmers say that in order for them to produce better carrots they need help from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Maximiliano Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos Village: “We need to work with a team, the Ministry of Agriculture, agronomist and the farmer to try to produce how to grow carrots. The Ministry of Agriculture I don’t think has some plots in experiment to produce carrots only the own farmers that’s why we need to work like a team.”