Potato importation stopped to protect local production Print E-mail
( 0 Votes )
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 01 February 2018 00:00

The Ministry of Agriculture recently convened a meeting at the Agriculture Show Grounds Conference Room in Belmopan, where potato producers and importers gathered to verify potato production figures and estimated harvest dates.

Producers representing small, medium and large farms from production areas countrywide attended the meeting.

The discussion opened with a presentation and verification of the amount of potato in production by districts. It was estimated that the Cayo District has the highest production with a total of 2.8 million pounds, followed by Corozal with 588,000 pounds. Also, the Orange Walk District produces 286,000 pounds while the Stann Creek District produces 45,000 pounds.

The estimated production for this year is 3.7 million pounds, with harvest dates starting in the first week of February 2018. Based on these estimated production figures, import licenses for potato have been closed by the Ministry of Agriculture. This policy will stand until local production has ended.

Last year there was a surplus in production for potatoes as a result of which many farmers had to contend with having to drop the price of their products for sale. The Ministry of Agriculture at the time had allowed for importation of potatoes which overlapped with the local production coming on stream causing that problem. This year with proper planning, that problem will be eliminated.

As can be seen with potatoes, every year Belize’s agricultural sector produces commodities that are seasonal. Local farmers produce enough onions, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and celery, which during November to February are conducive to rapid growth. The production and harvesting for most of these start around the end of January.

Chief Agriculture Officer Andrew Harrison, estimates that Belize’s onion production starts in the first week of February and that there is local production until May or June, after there is none importations are to be made. As for carrots, production started in early January and it is expected that there will be local carrots until the first week of March. Potatoes follow the same trend as onions says Harrison.

The Ministry of Agriculture will soon be able to give farmers more precise data on these crops, because a statistical project with funds from the Inter American Development Bank is now on the pipeline. A local firm is being used to develop a program for this data collection.

“It will be in a way more simplified, because we will be using tablets to collect the information rather than pen and paper, so that project is on the pipeline and this is when we will be visiting farmers and we ask them for their cooperation… on what they do and what they plant,” says Andrew Harrison.