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May 8, 2018

Belize Welcomes Potential Cacao Investors from Belgium, Netherlands

Today, the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service is hosting an inbound mission from Belgium and the Netherlands that is here to learn about the cacao industry and explore opportunities of trade and investment. BELTRAIDE, in partnership with the Embassy of Belize in Brussels, held the first of its four-day tour with the European-Central America Chamber to discuss the local cacao industry, trade agreements and other regulations and policies in relation to agriculture and agribusiness development.  The aim is to link Belizean cacao producers with potential investors, buyers and technical experts from Europe to stimulate the national cacao industry. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Belize’s cacao production is concentrated in the south. In Toledo, smallholders produce about two hundred and twenty thousand pounds of cacao every year. But only small quantities are being processed locally. About nine chocolate producers are using the local cacao beans to produce chocolates and other value-added products, most of which are consumed in Belize. The remainder of cacao is exported to the U.S.A.  But the world demand is growing for this kind of organic fine-flavour cocoa. And so BELTRAIDE and its partners are hoping to generate that interest within the European market:

 

Lejia Melanie Gideon

Lejia Melanie Gideon, General Manager, BELTRAIDE

“It is an investment and trade mission. The intention is if they are to invest in the industry, whether at the agriculture level or the agro-processing level, so value added products And those same products would be traded, exported out of the country and buyers to buy our bean and any product that they that they see from Belize.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Looking at our industry right now, what kinds of opportunities does BELTRAIDE see that exist right now?”

 

Lejia Melanie Gideon

“Belize cacao is known for its niche quality; its flavours from fruity to woody. So, this is in high demand for gourmet cacao manufactures in the US and Europe. So, the opportunity is to show them the buyers of bean, as well as what are our products. In Belize we have anywhere from spa products such as facial scrubs, soaps to cacao liqueur and cacao tea, as well as a wide range of chocolates. So, the value added is immense here in the country.”

 

The president of the Chamber of Commerce for Europe and Central America in Brussels, Belgium, Erwin De Weerdt is a part of the visiting delegation. He says that the visiting investors would like to see opportunities to establish their own operations in Belize.

 

Erwin De Weerdt

Erwin De Weerdt, President, EURACEN

“We have been lucky to invite a party of people to come to Belize and visit and discuss and see to what extent they can make investments and work out cooperation with local growers and discuss the cacao business and the quality of the cacao.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, what specifically would be a motivation for the investors to say they want to do business with Belize; what would you need to see from our industry?”

 

Erwin De Weerdt

“I think that the opportunity that I think could be created is that people could perhaps set up their own operation, their own cacao business in cooperation with local people here and make it the kind of quality brand for them that stands out against the traditional cacao corporation that are in other countries that produce cacao. That is a big advantage and I think this is certainly an opportunity that they are looking for, to see to what extent they could set up an operation of their own, in cooperation with the local people here.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Any interest in the value-added products; the scrubs, the soaps, those kinds of things?”

 

Erwin De Weerdt

“Absolutely. I think that this is a very interesting platform to see what kinds of spin-offs might be possible from this visit and I think it should not stop only with the products of the cacao beans, the derivates, etc. I hope that we will discuss that during this trade mission.”

 

Bruno Kuppinger is from Mafredi in Toledo. He has four thousand five hundred cacao trees which can produce an average of ten thousand pounds of cacao bean. He says this kind of interest is good news for the cacao industry.

 

Bruno Kuppinger

Bruno Kuppinger, Cacao Farmer

“We just started a few years ago to plant more than four thousand five hundred cacao trees. I think it is a huge potential for Toledo and the country of Belize because chocolate all around the world is in high demand and the quality and fine quality of cacao beans here in Belize is amazing; this is why we have a lot of European chocolate makers coming to Belize and try to invest, plant and encourage cacao farmers here to do more.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“As a cacao grower here in Belize, what would you like to get out of this opportunity or to see come out of this European mission?”

 

Bruno Kuppinger

“I would love to see that we add value here for the Cacao industry; keep the cacao beans more in Belize; add value and make chocolate here and export the finishing products. Maybe we can have a cacao factory in Belize, do more investment or to plant more. We have a small cacao industry at the moment compared to the world market. We have about one hundred or one hundred and fifty metric tons of what we produce per year and I think we have potential of five hundred tons. We are just a very small world market percentage of what is out there.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

As a part of the visit, the delegation will be meeting with cacao stakeholders in Southern Belize.

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