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Feb 23, 2005

Bz. Poultry Assoc. meets to discuss future

Story PictureIn the current national debate over the budget and related issues of taxes, deficits, imports and exports, the one thing we take for granted is that, unlike many small Caribbean countries, Belize can feed itself–at least with the basics. And no food is more basic to the Belizean diet than our beloved chicken. Today the people who put all that poultry on the table held their annual meeting in Belize City.

Orlando Habet, Manager, Belize Poultry Association
?For the past three to four years, the livestock income from all livestock products is somewhere around seventy-nine to eighty million dollars of which poultry takes up about fifty million dollars. So it?s very significant. It?s only for domestic production and domestic consumption but it is very significant in terms of foreign exchange savings.?

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
There?s no denying that chicken is what?s for dinner in Belize, but like the rest of the country?s productive sector, recent economic developments have forced industry leaders to review the state and future of poultry. One of those factors government?s proposal to increase taxes. Today the Belize Poultry Association has hired an independent consultant to determine the cost of production and the impact any new taxes would have…but it looks like the prices of pollo will be going up.

Bernhard Bergen, Chairman, BPA
?I don?t think that it will be absorbed by the farmer because it?s too big, the taxes. I don?t think they?ll be able to absorb.?

Orlando Habet
?Certainly we have thought about it and if there is an increase in the price of poultry meat. The concern isn?t that great in terms of our competition in terms of the other meats because pork and beef are already higher in terms of costs than poultry is so whenever our costs go up, certainly their cost will go up. So we?ll still be the cheapest source of protein for the Belizean consumer.?

Traditionally, most of the poultry producers, processors and suppliers in the country come from the Mennonite community. Today industry leaders say personnel growth will be key to poultry?s transition into world markets.

Bernhard Bergen
?I know Mennonites have the biggest part of the thing but our farmers have been working hard to get something together that we could work with other people also to help in this business and let them understand what poultry is and what all needs to be done to help in poultry raising and everything like that.?

Janelle Chanona
?So you encourage other locals to get involved with you??

Bernhard Bergen
?Well a little bit. It?s not a big deal as yet. But we?re trying to encourage others to get involved and help with planning and different things.?

Orlando Habet
?It is difficult for others to really get into it because of the small consumer population that we have and again, because of the integration that exists, it?s difficult to be disintegrated or horizontally integrated. The area that we are looking at for expansion would if there would be a possibility for exports. We are hoping that recent talks with Guatemala for a partial scope agreement between Belize and Guatemala that we possibly have one avenue there.?

Chicken may be the main item on the Belizean menu but according to the Belize Poultry Association, on average, Belizeans consume only two to two and a half eggs per week. The association has launched an aggressive campaign to show consumers that eggs are good for you in more ways than one.

Orlando Habet
?As a source of protein for poverty ridden people in Belize, it?s very significant because a child who would normally go without breakfast to school, with one egg, which would cost about twenty-five cents Belize, could have enough protein for that one day.?

Janelle Chanona
?So bottom-line you want Belizeans to eat more eggs.?

Orlando Habet
?Definitely. As a matter of fact, the propaganda and the advertisements all over the world now is, one egg a day is okay.?

According to Habet, Belize’s poultry industry employs fifteen hundred people directly and another four hundred indirectly and consumes some sixty percent of the nation’s corn production.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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