What’s up with citrus? New DFC GM says the organisation is ready to offer support
Belize’s citrus industry has had its ups and downs over the years. With a particular focus on agriculture, the Development Finance Corporation has provided a 15-million-dollar facility, spanning three years. When this announcement was made at last year’s Citrus Growers’ Association AGM, Minister Jose Mai voiced concerns about the industry, particularly efforts to diversify it. Henry Anderson, the DFC’s new general manager, says the organisation is there to help.
Henry Anderson, Incoming General Manager, DFC: “An industry is what you define it to be. Typically when you say citrus you’re talking about selling oranges or selling grapefruit. What we have is a juice industry we don’t sell the fresh fruit we sell the juice. So if you look at it as a juice industry then it’s much broader and what affects citrus is the disease. If you make it broader where you’re looking at other types of fruits as well or other types of juices then you are broadening the product line and you’re diversifying the risk away from HLB Citrus so that’s a broader vision that the industry needs to have an my understanding is that CPBL is now looking at things broader because as you know it does not only sell orange juice and grapefruit juice but it also does pineapple, it’s getting ready to do coconut water so that is starting to happen. As it relates to the other things you mentioned DFC can assist the industry with financing. As you know the DFC the government as one of it’s policies earmarked $15 million dollar product and DFC had put that in place from October so it’s there. Where I see DFC can support the industry more however is working with the players in the industry to get access to technology and innovation because the number one thing you need to be successful in agriculture is know how. You could have the best land, all the money in the world but if you don’t have the know how and you don’t implement the science then that’s a challenge. So it’s about sharing knowledge, pushing to bring knowledge in things like fertilizers what some companies have started to do is to buy together in bulk so they buy in greater volume so some of that is happening and we can facilitate those things.”
What about the long-held criticism that the industry is not diversified enough? Anderson says that one way to do that is to fund critical technologies. That way the industry can be perceived as modern and thus attract critical investments.
Henry Anderson, Incoming General Manager, DFC: “The DFC as I said can provide obviously financing and it can provide knowledge to assist with growing and connections with markets. What can happen, I won’t sit here and say I have the prescription to fix the industry but what the industry – it needs to be market driven and it has to come from the level of the processor because everything centers around the processor which is CPBL. So when you look at the demand there is the demand for pineapple juice, there is demand for sour sop juice, there’s demand for a lot of blended products, there’s demand for value added so CPBL needs to make that transition to start moving out of the commodities space and into the value added. It also has to broaden it’s product line. Notice I said broaden product line it’s not diversification. If you’re making one juice and you add three, four five juice then you’re broadening the lines of juice. Now what you’re doing in terms of diversifying you’re diversifying your risk because where all of your input came from let’s say citrus then if you’re doing pineapple then in pineapple you don’t have a disease issue like what you have in citrus so you do that. One of the things though, and I have to double back on this, with citrus the regulatory environment needs to improve and that’s not something DFC can do but the DFC can talk about it and can advocate for it because all the rules and regulations are there and they’re not being fully followed as required so that is something that needs to change and I am sure that will come. From the DFC’s part as I said the loan funds are there with stipulations to ensure that the monies are paid back because we have to ensure that we’re responsible while lending but I will say this the demand is out there, CPBL is adding coconut water, they’re scaling up pineapples I think they just increased the price they’re paying for pineapple so those are all things that stimulate a sector and DFC can work closely with the industry to make financing available to the smaller farmers and try to work to make technology available as well.”