Current Initiatives at the Ministry of Agriculture
A delegation from the Chilean Government visited Belize on Monday of this week to look at the current plant and animal health systems, which is under the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA), to find gaps and prepare proposals to make improvements in those systems. This is happening as the Ministry of Agriculture embarks on its Annual Work plan for 2014 and 2015 from Wednesday to Friday of this week in Central Farm.
The Ministry of Agriculture is also preparing to hold an important forum on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO), starting at 9:00 am, in Central Farm, on December the 10th of this year. The purpose of the GMO forum is to examine the pros and cons of GMOs’ where an expert from both the Caribbean and Central America will be brought in to meet with their Belizean counterparts –to focus on the GMO issue.
“We know that GMOs are being planted around the World, especially in the United States; we know we import food from the United State, which is G.M.O produced…the G.M.O Agenda is there in the forefront, we need to address it more consistently, because the population needs to know the pros and cons of what G.M.O is and G.M.O can do,”says Roberto Harrison, Belize’s Chief Agriculture Officer.
Belize does not yet have a position on whether to allow G.M.Os to be planted; a case of interest for producers of corn and soy bean, two commodities that are produced in large quantities in the country.
Meanwhile; the Mediterranean fruit fly in Belize is now under “control” and the quarantine has been lifted. The medfly outbreak was a cause of concern because of the quantities of flies that were found in the Hopkins Area. As a result, the public is reminded to refrain from bringing in fruits and vegetables into the country since this most destructive fruit pest can threaten foreign exchange earners such as a striving papaya industry in the North of the Country.
The National Cattle Sweep is also now continuing in both the Stann Creek and Toledo District in an effort to test for both Brucellosis and Tuberculosis and also to establish a farmer registry of cattle in the Country. The Cattle Sweep is a requirement to be able to export beef to Mexico, even though an informal trade now exists with cattle to Guatemala. So far the success of the Cattle Sweep has caused the price of cattle to rise to $2.00 a pound on the hoof.
Both efforts to maintain Belize free from medfly and beef free from pathogenic components have not come about cheaply.
“The National Cattle Sweep, which will cost in excess of twelve million dollars for establishing the system and disease status, not including ongoing maintenance costs of a disease free area to be able to export to Mexico and elsewhere…the current med fly surveillance and eradication program costs the Country half a million dollars on a yearly basis to maintain, with this year requiring an additional $170,000.00 to establish a checkpoint and to eradicate the massive oubreak in the Southern region,” reports Francisco Guiterrez, Director of Plant Health at BAHA.
As expressed by a Ministry of Agriculture Official recently, the current efforts by the Ministry of Agriculture to guarantee Belize’s continued food security has already gotten some attention from the Caribbean Community and the Americas. Indeed; CARICOM is considering Belize as its “saviour” said the official.