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Mar 23, 2018

100 Gone from BAL; is Agriculture Still Relevant?

The budget debate continued today in the House of Representatives in Belmopan as members of parliament made their contributions and up to news time, the debate continues. But we begin tonight’s newscast with troubling news from one of the main economic pillars, that is, the shrimp industry in the south.  Last November, the Statistical Institute recorded a significant drop of one hundred and fifty thousand less pounds in shrimp exports. Well today, the Belize Agua Culture Limited, announced that effective immediately, it is sending home at least one hundred employees. BAL has informed the Ministry of Labour that the layoffs are employees at its operation at mile four, Placencia Road, Stann Creek District. According to BAL, the reason for downsizing is due to the significant costs in the fight against a disease outbreak that is affecting the entire shrimp industry. BAL further states that it is attempting to rebuild to make its operations profitable and to re-employ affected employees in the future. It is a blow to the Prime Minister’s hopes of a rebound for that industry, but even more so for the families of those affected. Orange Walk South P.U.P. representative Jose Mai spoke one-on-one with News Five on the margins of the National Assembly and expressed his sympathies, while also excoriating the Ministry of Agriculture which as of news time has made no statement.

 

Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Rep., Orange Walk South

“We have experienced that, you know. We experienced the closing down of Libertad Factory in the eighties. We have now experienced the closing down of the papaya industry. We are now seeing the closing down of the shrimp industry, gradually, because of disease problems. I feel for those people. And if we don’t be careful; if we don’t address it, as I said yesterday in the House, we are going to see the closing down of the citrus industry too. It’s a very difficult time – a hundred people being laid off, a hundred families, that’s four hundred people that will have no food to eat if they don’t get a job. It’s a sad state of affairs, and the Budget has nothing in there for shrimp, nothing in there for citrus; it’s a sad state. The agriculture sector has become irrelevant. If you close down the Ministry of Agriculture, the productive sector today will still continue; it’s like we don’t need them anymore, because they are not impacting any of the industries, none of the sub-sectors. They’re on their own which is a sad state of affairs. You saw the onions in the North; you saw the potatoes, you saw the drought in the corn. There is not a dollar being pumped into those sub-sectors. The industries, the sub-sectors, are those which produce and exchange the foreign exchange earnings; we ought to look after these sub-sectors. We understand the situation with shrimp; we are living [with] the citrus disease for ten years now, yet we are not passing legislation to try to fix the situation. We saw the papaya go down again. And you see it coming and they do nothing about it. Instead of helping, finding solutions, what they do – turn around and want to import now. My gosh, what have we come [to]? What will become of us? God save [us;] God help us!”

 

According to the press release issued by the Ministry of Labour, it is currently working closely with the management of the company and the affected employees, to ensure that the legal requirements under Redundancy Provisions of the Labour Act, Chapter two hundred and ninety-seven of the Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2011, are complied with, and most importantly that the wages and terminal benefits due to all employees by law are paid. The Labour Department encourages all affected employees to visit the nearest Labour Office in order to verify their payments. We will of course continue to follow this developing story.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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