Minister of Agriculture has high hopes of improving the agriculture sector
Thursday, February 16th, 2017
Over the past few years, the agricultural sector in Belize has experienced a series of setbacks, particularly in the citrus and banana industries. Since taking command of the Ministry of Agriculture, Honourable Godwin Hulse has met with several agriculture stakeholders in an effort to revive the agricultural sector, which contributes tremendously to the Belizean economy.
The Ministry has launched a new campaign dubbed ‘Let’s Get Growing,’ in hopes of boosting the sector. According to Hulse, the whole idea is to expand production and take advantage of the market that exists, while at the same time try new ones. “The overall position is to create employment for people in rural areas, and earn foreign exchange,” said Hulse.
He cited the issues with the banana industry, which underwent a severe strain when its prime consumer, Irish Multi-national Fyffes pulled the plug on Meridian Enterprises, one of the Belize’s largest banana farms in October of 2015. Hulse is hopeful that the situation affecting the banana industry can improve. “I have visited with the banana growers, and as we know, there are changes with the European Union, the changes in England with Brexit and Fyffes has now been sold to a company called Sumitomo,” said Hulse. “We haven’t engaged Sumitomo yet, but we don’t expect that there will be any significant change like Fyffes did on us; we hope not.”
Hulse maintains that the banana industry is on the road to recovery, claiming that when Meridian Enterprises was kicked out of the market, the production of the bananas in Belize fell by 15%, however, that loss was made up by other banana farms.
As to the citrus situation, Hulse is hoping that the country will see an upturn in its production. He indicated that his Ministry will do everything they can to fight a disease that is affecting the citrus plantations. “We have moved from about seven million tons in production to three million, that is not good,” said Hulse. “We hope to get up back to those glory days, especially now that the price is at the best it has ever been.”
Hulse also touched on the issues that the shrimp industry has been struggling with, especially after it was ravaged by a viral disease in 2016. “There is a lot of talk about the early death syndrome that affected the shrimps, but that is getting better,” said Hulse. “The shrimp farmers understand how to deal with it and they are employing the technique and technology to be able to come back, so I also have good hopes for the shrimp industry.”
According to Hulse, the sugar industry is doing very well; deliveries are even ahead of schedule. “The ton sugar per ton cane is pretty good so far from the weekly report I get. We are pleased with it,” said Hulse. He also mentioned that new farmers may be able to enter the market, while increasing the production.
Minister Hulse also spoke about the coconut industry, referring to it as a budding sector with great potential. Hulse admitted that it was unknown to him that there are about 4,500 acres of coconuts in the country. He has high hopes in this industry, which was a thriving one on Ambergris Caye many years ago. “I have a lot of faith in agriculture; that is my background, and I will work hard to make things work. I have hopes that we can rebound and agriculture can regain its position,” he said.
Hulse believes that operating under the motto ‘Let’s Get Growing,’ agriculture will become one of the fundamental pillars in the economy of Belize. In his visits around the country, he plans to continue meeting with stakeholders to discuss how the issues affecting the agricultural industry can be better addressed.