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National Agriculture and Trade Show 2014 launched Print E-mail
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Thursday, 08 May 2014 00:00

Belize’s premiere agricultural trade show, the National Agriculture and Trade Show was launched on Friday of last week at the Show Grounds in Belmopan. Present for the launching were members of the Diplomatic Corp, Government Officials and many others who share a stakehold in Agriculture and Development. As part of the ceremonies on Friday, the Governor General Sir Colville Young did an Inspection of the Guard of Honor. This was followed by a welcome address by the Mayor of Belmopan His Worship Mr. Simeon Lopez. Mayor Lopez, took the opportunity to thank Show Ground organizers for the use of the ground facilities for market days on Tuesdays and Fridays, while a more centrally located Belmopan market is being completed within the next few months.

Invited as guest speaker was Mr. Alvin Henderson, who along with the Chief Executive Officer within the Ministry of Agriculture, Jose Alpuche, co-chairs the innovative Agriculture and Food Consultative Council. Mr. Alvin Henderson, having previously done work at the Belize Chamber of Commerce now overlooks a successful and enterprising shrimp industry with markets in both Belize and abroad. Thus; it was not surprising that with his experience he would state that “…our local fortunes are many times inextricably tied to exogenous market forces far beyond our shores, which unattended can cause devastating local consequences.”

Mr. Alvin Henderson also proclaimed that more than ever CARICOM needs Belize, despite the fact that Belize’s export trade with CARICOM has more than doubled over the last three years from a value of 34.6 million Belize dollars in 2010 to 86.6 million Belize dollars in 2013.

“They need us particularly for us to help them keep the Region’s inflation in check, like red kidney beans, black eye peas, corn meal, citrus juices, fish, shrimps…these products are all being sourced currently out of Belize.”

While Belize is blessed with a lot of land, Alvin Henderson contends that what is needed now is to make a resolve to make export development a priority.
“Importing and consuming more that we produce is an unsustainable economic model for a small developing country like ours,” he said.

Speaking briefly about those very external forces was Jose Alpuche, the Ministry of Agriculture’s Chief Executive Officer, who deputized for the Hon. Gaspar Vega, Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture, who at the time was heading back to Belize from a trip in Europe. According to Jose Alpuche, the three traditional industries, sugar, banana and citrus have been undergoing structural changes for over a decade in response to the liberalization of previously protected markets. These changes, he said, are impacting a large number of small farmers and “we are now working tirelessly to preserve a delicate balance that will ensure our farmers thrive while they re-tool and reform to overcome the increasing market competition.”

An example of this is in the sugar industry where over the last three crops, farmers have produced high quality cane, while increasing output, this trend must continue as the European Union has already announced further market liberalization for 2017.

“Reform is never easy, it is never an easy undertaking and it will continue to be challenging, but let me reiterate this Government’s full commitment to sustained reform of traditional industries and certainly a deep commitment to all small farmers throughout this country,” assured Jose Alpuche.

All three prominent farmers for this year were then sashed by both the Queen of Belmopan Makaela Banner and Ms. Sharon Ramclan, C.E.O. in the Ministry of Natural Resources. Decorated on stage were Mr. Dieny Jones 20 year old Junior Farmer of the Year from La Gracia Village, Mr. Felix Esquivel 45 year old Senior Farmer from Corozal Town and Mrs. Angelica Ursula Dubon 66 year old Woman Farmer of the Year from Yemeri Groove.

Senior Farmer of the Year, Felix Esquivel, told the Guardian that he makes most of his money from selling onions; although 2 years ago he had problems selling this crop. He maintains 100 local chickens and wants to get into the organic growing of chickens.

Woman Farmer of the Year Mrs. Angelica Ursula Dubon also told us that she now has in stock a selection of cattle that have been primed to be resistant to many diseases. Her farm now comprises of 60 acres of improved pasture, 51 heads of cattle, pigs, horses and chickens. She also maintains seven acres of assorted fruit trees, one acre of corn and a quarter acre of assorted vegetables.

After the official ceremonies concluded on Friday at the opening of the National Agriculture and Trade Show, with entertainment by the Panerrifix Steel Band, the show was then opened for both Saturday and Sunday and despite an overcast sky, many Belizeans did come out to enjoy the new amenities, produce and entertainment offered at the fair.

The theme for this year is “Stimulating Prosperity in Agriculture and Food Production through Renewed Public Private Partnerships,” as was much evident during May 2-4, 2014, which brought both sectors together for the benefit of Belizeans from around the Country.

Also, announced last Friday was an opportunity to win one million dollars in the Belmopan Rotary Club’s ‘The Belize Duck Race.’ This is an irresistible opportunity, for from now to November 29th of this year, attempts will be made for Belizeans to adopt 30,000 ducks at $10.00 per ticket to raise funds for community development projects. On the much awaited date of November 29th, these ducks will be launched from the Hawkesworth Bridge into the Macal River. The first duck that arrives at the lower lying wooden bridge, located downstream in a rapid area,  has a guaranteed $10,000.00 prize. However; for every 3000 pliable ducks, there will be one duck that will be marked. The first marked duck to cross the temporary wooden bridge will give its owner one million Belize dollars, which comes courtesy of the Belize Natural Energy.