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Jan 16, 2018

No Déjà Vu for San Carlos Farmers: They Want Chance to Sell Vegetables

San Carlos is a collective, cooperative farming community of twenty-four farmers. It has running water and a small school but no electricity. Nonetheless, it has been extremely productive in past years, owing in no small part to the ingenuity of its farmers. It has in the past faced severe losses in production of onions, carrots and last year, potatoes, after it was discovered that the Ministry of Agriculture had over-budgeted for import licenses and resulted in a glut in the market. Worse, farmers were forced to sell at a price which did not cover their production costs. Ahead of this year’s harvest, media houses were invited to what has been proudly called the “breadbasket” of Belize to see that farmers from the village are producing, and ready to feed the nation. Aaron Humes reports.


Aaron Humes

“The Ministry of Agriculture’s popular slogan is “Let’s Get Growing,” and here in San Carlos, farmers have been taking that to heart. They have been producing the most onions, potatoes, corn, rice, beans and other foods that help grow the population of Belize.  However, they have themselves been starving for attention from the same Agriculture officials.”

It is two weeks to harvest season for red potatoes and about a month for yellow and white onions. Maximiliano Hernandez, who has been farming in this community since its establishment twenty years ago, is out in the field tending the crops he wants to sell in Orange Walk Town and Belize City. But he is wary of a repeat of previous years when a glut of import permits issued by the Ministry prevented him from getting his bounty to market.


Maximiliano Hernandez

Maximiliano Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos

“The practice is we prepare the land, because that is the idea, to plant. Prepare the land, put fertilizer, set the trip lines – everything, until right now, you have standing in the back [behind] us, the potatoes look pretty. That’s why we invest money. For one acre – it’s almost five thousand dollars per acre. In total between the onions and potatoes, it’s almost sixty acres total. It’s almost three hundred thousand dollars in investment. Last year, we had a big problem to sell the products. Right now, I don’t know what [will] happen in two weeks more, I don’t know what [will] happen, if we will have the same problem or there will be less problems to sell the product. But last year, we had a lot to sell, the price went down; I don’t know what happened. The government or the ministers – I don’t know who put the seventy-five cents per pound for potatoes; we don’t make profit from that. Right now, we have the potato field; two weeks more we will begin the harvest. Encourage the government: help us sell our product, fresh product, healthy product, [at a] price which we will make profit.”


Originally from Blue Creek, John Dyck is farming corn and red kidney beans in this two-hundred acre plot using a two-hundred thousand dollar irrigation pivot system imported from the U.S. But he says it could all go for naught in current conditions.


John Dyck

John Dyck, Farmer, San Carlos

“The road is pretty bad to come here – it takes two hours for a truck to come here from Blue Creek; it’s only twenty-five miles. But it makes it very hard and now with the fuel prices, butane prices gone up – we used to use, 2016 we used about a dollar a bag to dry the corn, right now with the butane prices it comes up to about one-seventy a bag, the butane, just to dry the corn. And we have our vehicles that we put on butane so that we can drive a little bit cheaper back and forth, but the fuel prices – we use for the pivot and the tractors and everything – and the price of the corn that went down so bad this year, to twenty cents a pound where it was two years ago twenty-nine cents a pound; it’s just not feasible to do that anymore.”


Hernandez warns that in as early as ten years, the younger generation may abandon farming for richer pursuits.


Maximiliano Hernandez

Maximiliano Hernandez

“Every farmer is [above the age of] fifty years old. The young farmers is less; why? Because the young farmers say the farm [is] no business because [they don’t] make money. What happens in maybe ten years, the farmers disappear because [they don’t] make money. The thing is, if you work hard, it’s to make money, to have a good life, to make a profit.”


And Orange Walk South area representative and fellow farmer Jose Mai says it’s time for the Government to listen and act.


Jose Mai

Jose Mai, Area Rep., Orange Walk South

“We decided now to bring the media out here to look before we have a crisis, so the government cannot say they didn’t know that there was thirty acres of potatoes, thirty acres of onions under production, and therefore they imported not knowing so and the farmers are losing their shirt. I want to make that very clear – that the media is out here today to advance the information [of] what is out here; what you saw out here today is a result of hard work and investment of the farmers of this constituency.”


Aaron Humes

“From the fertile fields of San Carlos in the Orange Walk District, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.”

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