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Jan 20, 2017

Fyffes Sell-Out to Sumitomo Should Not Affect Belize, Says Agriculture Minister

In agricultural news: it slipped under the radar, but in December 2016, Irish fruit distribution company Fyffes, well known in Belize for purchasing Belizean bananas, was bought out by Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation for nearly eight hundred million U.S. dollars. The Sumitomo name is perhaps most associated with vehicle tyres, but the Corporation has a sprawling interest including food, supplying one in every three bananas sold in Japan after first entering the market in the 1960’s according to the B.B.C. So where does Belize fit? Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse says we have been assured that there are, for now, no plans to drop Belize.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture

“Let me say that as far as I know so far – the discussion is ongoing – the people in Fyffes are not sure that they are going to move over, they are still there for a time. We don’t know yet, finally, how Sumitomo is going to manage that; whether they are going to own the Fyffes and keep the Fyffes or manage it – they are tyre people and all sorts of people. And we are hoping for the best in that. The C.E.O. met with some of the Fyffes representatives in London and they didn’t think that anything significant would change; we are hoping it wouldn’t. In any case, I’ve got to leave you with the thought that in Belize we produce the best of everything, no matter what it is; even the negatives, we produce the best of those – like the “Belize Breeze,” as they say. We have the sweetest citrus, I am told; we have the best banana; we had the best mahogany, when we had it and so forth; so I don’t have any fear that Belize banana is going to drop away – ain’t nobody will match the product that we have. I still have the confidence that Fyffes is not going to be dissolved; and I also have the confidence that Sumitomo, even though we have not spoken with them, is not going to be silly as to suggest goodbye, Belize.”

 

Sumitomo, according to the B.B.C., agrees to keep Fyffes’ management team and may eventually combine them with its own banana importing business in a few years. Fyffes also manages a number of high-yield farms in the South but cut off its import link with the largest producing farm, Mayan King, in 2015 because management company Meridian Enterprises Limited was thought to be represented by John Zabaneh, who was labelled a drug kingpin by U.S. authorities in 2012. Mass layoffs of eight hundred-plus employees resulted.

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