Agriculture C.E.O. pushes crop diversity
Jose Alpuche, Minister of Agriculture
“There was also an issue of diversification of the sector itself and into other byproducts, rum, and ethanol but although ethanol is not an option for us right now. There is also too some of the farmers having to diversify out of sugar cane and we have those initiatives under way. As you know we have a sheep project, honey project, onion improvement project up north and we are looking at other pilot projects to try to push diversification up north out of sugar. The reality, the goal has to be that we will continue producing the 140 thousand tons of sugar cane, sugar spry with probably the same amount of sugar cane but ion half the land. That’s the way we need to look at it. So if we can free up half of the land right now currently under sugar cane cultivation still producing the same amount of sugar cane that it remains economically viable then we have the space to do other products. To be very honest it’s easier said than done but it’s the only plan we have that we can successfully implement with the farmers. In addition to that though as it relates to market diversification the European market will get much tighter we are looking as an industry as a sector, as a region to ring fence the market within the CARICOM states as another means of long term viability of the sector.”
“What has the dialogue been like with Tate and Lyle with regards to the present situation and going forward?”
“It’s been good we have a difference of opinion with Tate and Lyle as it relates to going forward, we are not shy about speaking out on the Belize perspective on the European Union market. We have done some lobbying in Europe recently; we will be attending meetings in Jamaica later this week at which we are pushing the Belize case. The issue of vulnerability of small states in the liberalizing trading environment, our approaches not changed, our realities have not changed enough and we will continue to push the Belize perspective forward.”
While Belize ships roughly eighty percent of its sugar exports to the European Union, it produces less than six tons of sugar per hectare, considerably less than countries such as Brazil which produce up to ten tons of sugar per hectare cultivated.