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Mar 23, 2018

How to Sweeten the Lime Situation

In other agricultural news from Belmopan, Orange Walk South area representative and the P.U.P.’s spokesman for agriculture, Jose Abelardo Mai, dropped a stunner during his Budget presentation. There is currently a scarcity of limes on the market, as the humble fruit has taken a beating from citrus greening disease in the south and other factors. This has prompted the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation to approach the Belize Agricultural Health Authority to conduct a pest risk analysis of limes to be imported from Mexico. But Mai told us this is a slap in the face to the already struggling citrus industry, and ignores alternatives such as using the fallow lands previously given over to papaya in Corozal to grow the fruit and prop up that district’s economy.

 

Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Rep., Orange Walk South

“For the B.M.D.C. to have requested such a task is completely disappointing to the agriculture sector and to the citrus industry. We live in the tropics. It’s true that there is a scarcity of lime, but it is a global scarcity. We have a citrus industry; this is the opportunity that the Ministry of Agriculture could have taken and provide the farmers with assistance. It takes about five hundred thousand dollars to establish enough acres of lime to supply the entire country.”

 

Aaron Humes

“You say that there is a shortage of lime; but is it that our orchards are not producing? What have you heard about the Marketing and Development Corporation’s decision to do this?”

 

Jose Abelardo Mai

“Obviously they are driven by the fact that there is a scarcity of lime; and you know we have this disease in citrus, the citrus greening disease, and there is a shortage of lime because of that and other factors. But now that we know there is a scarcity of lime, the Ministry of Agriculture could have worked with Central Farm to have enough seedlings to sell out to farmers. As a matter of fact, if you take thirty farmers, with ten acres each, that’s three hundred acres; that’s enough that the country can eat, all it needs is for Government to take that initiative. The Ministry of Agriculture should have ran [with] this.  The B.M.D.C.’s role is not to import lime, not to import anything, but to find markets for our producers. Secondly, we live in the heart of the tropics; this is the opportunity that farmers have been waiting for. They say citrus greening will kill the lime – yes, it’s true, but in any case, limes only have a lifespan of five years, so if you plant it out today in five years you will have to replant because some disease will kill it. And in the North the infrastructure is already in place – the papaya went down and there are wells already dug in the North. And limes can adapt good for the North; they can produce more than two crops for the year because we have dry conditions. So you allow the plant to undergo stress with the weather, and then you irrigate so that you can have two or three crops for the year. The Ministry of Agriculture and its current leadership have become completely irrelevant. If I had been the director of BAHA, I would have never entertained that.”

 

According to Mai, the same man, Jose Alpuche, is C.E.O. in the Ministry of Agriculture and chairs BAHA’s board, which removes him as an effective counter against such a proposal. We intend to seek further information from the relevant authorities.

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