Area Representative for Orange Walk South, Jose Mai still places the plight of the potato farmers squarely in the lap of the government. Following a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture, Mai says he agrees that the coordination by the department to allow for a steady supply of potatoes on the market was “ok” but questions whether importers stuck to the amount stipulated on the permits. The Ministry’s release also states that farmers began harvesting before an agreed date and Mai says that was the case but it was only a matter of days. That aside, Mai now tackled the coordination of total production which was detailed in the government release.
Jose Mai: “From the amount of potatoes planted which is in this press release was 348 acres; 3.57 million pounds of potatoes. Consuming at least 100,000 lbs per week, we have potatoes for 8.9 months of the year. When you know that the nature of the potato is high in starch and carbohydrates so you cannot store for more than three months. So again I will lay the blame where it has to be. The coordination of production was horribly done. The importation of seeds is monitored and controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture; BAHA included. So while you cannot stop anybody from planting potatoes but you can guide the farmer. Why would you allow farmers to plant 348 acres of potatoes when you know that we have limited storage capacity. You know that the product cannot store for long so there will be tremendous loss in the field and tremendous loss in the prices going down. The losses are in the millions. The average cost of production of potato is $7000 per acre so if the Ministry is right in saying you have 348 acres you are talking about $2.4 million. To a rich individual it is nothing you know but to small farmers this is all they work for in their life so there are going to be at least half of that spoiled.”
Because of the limited storage capacity, Mai says farmers will, even with the complete absence of imported potatoes, saturate the market bringing down the prices of their product and ultimately triggering financial loss.