The Ministry of Agriculture will import 36,000 disease-tolerant and high-yielding coconut seeds from Brazil. The venture stems from a recent trip to the country where a Belizean delegation, led by Agriculture Minister, Jose Mai, attended Brazil’s National Coconut Fair. In Belize, there are currently 18,000 acres of coconuts planted, primarily in the south and five coconut processing companies, one of which is exporting fresh coconuts to the US. The government is now looking to expand Belize’s production by implementing a diversification project in the north. According to Minister Mai, the project will assist sugar cane farmers in branching out from their traditional crop. Here’s how the Minister explained the initiative to Love News this afternoon.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: “In the past Belize has had a hybridization program for coconuts. It is crossing the Malayan Dwarf coconuts to the Panama Tall. You get a hybrid that is tolerant to the disease we got here in Belize. However it is a hybrid, therefore the F2 of the seeds that you get from the coconut tree is not the best planting material. People do plant it but there’s a high possibility that you will not get the yields as if you are getting the F1, if you are planting the cross hybrid. So seed becomes a problem there because it’s a hybrid and you cannot continue planting seeds. But in Brazil now, there’s what you call a variety which is the Brazilian Green Dwarf which is a variety. If you plant this out and you get the seeds from it you can plant that seed and you’ll have good genetic quality. That is the advantage between the hybrid and the variety. So we have identified that variety. We have identified the suppliers of the seed and I have spoken to them. I have asked them if they will supply us and they said yes they will supply us the numbers, plant density, spacing. They gave us all the, what you call the details of the variety, the logistics and so on. In the past, there have been people who have imported the same seeds from Brazil and they were selling seeds at $25 for one unit. So imagine if you were to plant 100 plants per acre. You’re going to offer a lot of money for one acre of coconuts? Small farmers cannot afford that. So we are now planning to import seeds from Brazil so that the price of those who have good coconut varieties, for example the Brazilian Dwarf, so that the price can go down. 1. 2 and if it doesn’t go down, so that the Government can bring in seeds and make it affordable to the farmer.”
Minister Mai adds that the focus of the project is to distribute seedlings to small farmers at an affordable price. He explained that he met with the Prime Minister this morning to discuss the economic benefits of strengthening the industry.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture: “We had a meeting this morning with the Prime Minister on the same topic because this is something that we had planned to do a long time ago and the investigation project in the north has to be a well put together project. So I have now formed a group in my ministry who will be now spearheading how that project is going to be designed for diversification in the north. So by the end of this week, we are meeting, having the first meeting. We already have somebody who I believe we will appoint. In due time we will make the name of that person known. But, we also include the financing institutions like DFC. When we have the project together, we will give more information to people but it includes hiring petitions for this project. Right? I believe that if we are to order seeds we are supposed to have it by November so it will be here by December. If it’s here by December, you have 45 to 60 days for it to sprout and then you have it five months more in the greenhouse, in the nursery and then transplant it in the month of June next year. So we have this window of opportunity that we are planning so we have to do something by November. So that is the plan right now. The value of the industry is growing. It’s growing and it can grow more. We have demands right now from the U.S. and from Mexico for the supply of coconut water and coconut. So I believe that it presents an excellent opportunity for farmers who want to diversify. Who are having a hard time in the sugar industry and want to diversify, I think it’s an excellent opportunity. But, before we get to all the numbers and details, right, we want to have our first meeting to decide how we are going to design this project and once we do that we will have information available for everybody to see and farmers who want to join can join.”