S.C.A. Buys Big in Potatoes from Local Farmer
Farmers in the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts have thousands of pounds of potatoes rotting in the fields – produce they have been unable to sell because of competing imported Mexican and contraband potatoes. On Monday, farmers in La Gracia in the Cayo District said they can’t get buyers – and then there are the farmers in San Carlos, up north who are faced with the same situation. In total, there are forty farmers between these two villages who are experiencing thousands of dollars in losses. When we caught up with Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse earlier this week, he said that there shouldn’t be any imported white potatoes on the market or contraband. The farmers are now attempting to sell at the best price on the market. So, when the Principal of Saint Catherine Academy saw the plight of the farmers in the news, she decided to reach out and today one farmer sold almost two thousand pounds of potatoes to friends and families of SCA students. News Five’s Andrea Polanco has been following the farmers’ story and has the following report.
These are SCA students bagging off almost two thousand pounds of locally grown red potatoes. These potatoes – with almost two hundred thousand pounds more – were on a farm in San Carlos Village in Orange Walk. They have been on that farm for several weeks – but today, thanks to the SCA, families and friends, the students have paid for all the potatoes ordered. After we reported that farmers in Orange Walk and Cayo had thousands of pounds of unsold potatoes as result of imported Mexican potatoes and contraband potatoes, SCA Principal decided she needed to do something so she made a call to her students.
Salome Tillett, Principal, Saint Catherine Academy
“Would they be willing to help? I was so blessed by their response. The students were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea. They cheered and they were happy to help. Even the ones who don’t eat potatoes; everybody was willing to help. So, that is where it started and then we asked our parents would they be willing to support it as well and then our parents asked their friends. So, from what started as a small initiative grew to almost two thousand pounds of potatoes that we could order and have distributed here today.”
Maximiliano Hernandez is one of twenty -five farmers of San Carlos in Orange Walk. He invested over sixty thousand dollars in his five acre potato crop for this season. When he heard from SCA, he offered seventy-five cents for his potatoes to be picked up in Orange Walk – this price is a reduced price from the eighty or ninety cents they would usually look for from buyers – but the resourceful farmer offered to deliver the potatoes today at SCA for a price of ninety cents per pound for just over one thousand eight hundred pounds – this–netted him over a thousand six hundred dollars – monies that couldn’t have come at a better time.
Maximiliano Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos, Orange Walk
“That is good for us because it encourage the consumers and even the students to support the farmers. Here in Belize, small farmers are good for Belize because we maintain the dollars here at home and more jobs for the people.”
“The two schools bought almost three thousand pounds of potatoes from you; so right now, at your farm, how much pounds of potatoes do you have stored at your farm?”
“Right now, we have almost two hundred thousand pounds in storage.”
“And how long has that been waiting in storage?”
“Oh my! If the buyer or the demand is low, maybe for two months.”
“Have you had to drop the price?”
“Yeah. Because the price right now is very cheap for us. Because the price right now is seventy-five cents a pound, but the price right now is nuh good for us because we nuh mek money; nuh mek profit. We invest money to produce more, but we need to pay the loans, interest. That price is bad for the farmer. Maybe eighty five or ninety five cents per pound is good.”
Students Alanis Badillo and Mia Matute are just two of many who ordered potatoes for their families. Today they are helping to get these potatoes out to the people who ordered. They share what this initiative means to them.
Alanis Badillo, Student, Saint Catherine Academy
“I didn’t understand why we, locals, weren’t buying these potatoes. And our school said that we were gonna buy a thousand pounds of potatoes and I was just excited because all these farmers have all these potatoes. And we bought them from them. We helped them so they can plant other crops for us and it is natural, organic potatoes; much healthier than importing those white potatoes that we have. I usually buy the imported potatoes because I didn’t really know that we grew our own; but now that I know we grow our own, I will start buying those instead of the imported.”
Mia Matute, Student, Saint Catherine Academy
“You know, when I saw the news as well I was saddened. When Ms Tillett told us that we should help the farmers and we should order some, I was so happy. So, it was no question I was going to order some. It makes me happy that I can help our own local farmers and help develop the country as well.”
“How many pounds of potatoes did you buy?”
“I bought two pounds, but if I knew I could order more I would but I didn’t know.”
“Any plans for those potatoes? Any dish you probably will make?”
“Yes. I love, love, love, scalloped potatoes.”
Principal Tillett says that buying the potatoes from the farmer in need represents something bigger that her institution stands for.
“Well, you know, SCA is a mercy school. For us, a big part of what we teach our girls is compassion and consideration for the people who need help. One of the things that we learn from our founders is that people need prayers but they need action too. So, it is good to say I will pray for you but it is also better to say let me do something for you right now; something that will help you today. So, it is a work of mercy and a part of what our school is all about.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
Principal Salome Tillett has put forward the idea to other high schools around Belize; Muffles College decided to do their part and they ordered around a thousand five hundred pounds of potatoes which was delivered to them today.