National Agriculture and Trade Show 2013 Held Print E-mail
( 1 Vote )
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:00

Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Gaspar Vega shakes hands with Senior Farmer of the Year George ChojAll roads led to the National and Agriculture and Trade Show (NATS) Grounds on May 3rd, 4th and 5th as thousands of Belizeans converged for the sixty fifth ever Trade Show, with this one, as has long been tradition, being held near the Nation’s Capital. To befit this Year’s theme, “Stimulating Prosperity in Agriculture and Food Production through Renewed Public Private Partnership,” the three days of activities was to highlight the work of the farming community, bringing together individuals, organizations and groups from across the Country.

To start off the activities, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega along with Chief Operations Officer Karen Bevans of BTL cut the ribbons last Friday to the main entrance and ticketing booth to the NATS Grounds for which funding had been obtained from Belize Telemedia Limited. Visitors were then taken on a brief tour to view one of the two kids’ playgrounds named ‘Kids Stop’, funded this time by Wood Stop Limited. The Deputy Prime Minister also led visitors to a tour of the newly constructed Food Court built by the Mennonite Community from Spanish Lookout and the freshly painted concrete Rodeo Gallery funded by Bowen and Bowen.

At the official opening ceremonies at the newly built multi-purpose center at the NATS Grounds, the Governor General Sir Colville Young did an inspection of the Guard of Honor after which the National Anthem was performed by the Panarifics Steel Band. Guest Speaker John Carr, the current Chairman of the Belize Livestock Association and operator of the Banana Bank Lodge, then spoke about the planned registration of some 50,000 heads of cattle and the new markets for live cattle that have recently opened in both Guatemala and Mexico. Carr reminded all those gathered that we need to be business friendly to attract more businesses to our shores.

Mayor of Belmopan Simeon Lopez welcomed all to the Belmopan Show Grounds and said that in the next few days thousands of Belizeans will be passing through Belmopan. Mayor Lopez also took time out to congratulate the specially invited Farmers of the Year 2013.

Ms. Belmopan Jasmine Arce also took the opportunity to do the sashing of all the three Farmers of the Year 2013. They were done for 17-year- old Junior Farmer of the Year Nelson Enrique Burgos, 38-year-old Woman Farmer of the Year Sharon Moody and 30-year-old Senior Farmer of the Year George Celestino Choj. Attendees were reminded that George Choj manages a small integrated farm in Cristo Rey Village, Cayo District. Choj has seamlessly integrated all his farming components to not only supply food for himself and his family but to generate a sizeable income. In addition to having a water catchment pond to provide water for his animals, and using organic wastes for his plants, Choj also has a bio-digestor which provides fuel for household use.

In the keynote address, Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, in his second ever address at NATS as Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture, spoke about the many partnerships that have been forged with the private sector in bringing about permanent infrastructure for the NATS’s sixty acre grounds. The Deputy Prime Minister also reviewed the most recent developments now occurring in both the North and Southern parts of the Country. He revealed the new prospects for the sugar industry where the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute recently received funding for institutional strengthening from the European Union. The investments in the Belize Sugar Industry are showing positive results, he said, with a better conversion rate of sugar cane to sugar, mainly a ten percent increase in sugar for the same amount of sugar cane that was delivered last year.

The same can be said for the Shrimp Farm Industry, said Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, where thanks to the new strategic investments in all shrimp farm industry, a new momentum has been reached.

“…Output is on pace to rise by more than seventy percent to above 22 million pounds and more than doubling of foreign exchange earnings of well over 88 million Belize Dollars,” he stated.

But it was not until Saturday and Sunday that both cultural events and other activities began in earnest at the NATS Grounds. On Saturday, a variety of artists including those coming from Gilharry and Band took to the stage at the Multi-Purpose Center and performed live for a large audience. On Saturday, there was also another award ceremony of the Farmers of the Year 2013. On Sunday, the last day of NATS, a rodeo show was featured with calf roping and bull riding.

It was during the three days at NATS that various groups and companies showed their hardware in an effort to gather market share. Universal Hardware, owning large stores in both Belize City and Spanish Lookout, came out with a variety of lawnmowers and motorcycle issuing clear warnings that motorcycles are not to be treated as bicycles on Belize’s active roads.

Food was found aplenty at NATS Grounds. It was an opportunity readily taken by budding entrepreneurs who are coming up with some of the most innovative products in the food sector.

A group of women from both the Orange Walk and Corozal District were present at NATS to showcase a Soya Bean based sauce named “WOW.” Training for the production of “WOW” was obtained from the Taiwan Technical Mission with support from the Ministry of Agriculture. Meanwhile, a group from Hopkins Village, who were present in the Cooperative Section at the NATS Grounds, is producing‘Cerebuitu’ (Good Cereal) from powdered sweet cassava, yams, plantains and rice. Cerebuito comes in small packages and needs to be pre-heated in water before it is consumed. Chairman of the Hopkins Farmers Cooperative, Francis Lews tells us that the Cooperatives Department has visited his factory a number of times to encourage production.

Long term plans for the National Agriculture and Show Grounds are to continue building durable and all weather infrastructure, allowing for the grounds to be used for 365 days a year rather that for only three days. In so doing, a national exhibition venue will be created. The multipurpose center itself, built thanks to the Government of Belize and the Venezuelan ALBA Fund, can now be used as a farmer trading center, a venue for youth work, an exhibition hall and other uses where the rental fee will be given at reasonable rates.

This year’s agriculture show had as many as 42 thousand visitors and was almost incident free. Organizers made strenuous efforts this year to deliberately zone off the grounds into alcohol free areas. Police presence was also visible at the NATS grounds making it a festive occasion for which we will now need to wait another year before it happens again.