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Apr 19, 2011

Marketing Board says it’s not to blame for onion farmers’ crisis

As we told you at the top of the news, the government is importing onions from Holland. It is not an unusual practice and is normally carried out when there is a shortage.  But plenty farmers in Orange Walk and Corozal are all suffering because the market has been flooded with the imported vegetable.  So the farmers are pointing fingers at the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation as well as the Ministry of Agriculture for the mix up.  The man in the hot seat of the onion controversy is Roque Mai, the managing director of the marketing board.  Mai says that there is a mix up in the calendar and he says the Corozal farmers are harvesting their onions too early and farmers from both Orange Walk and Corozal have tried to undersell each other, creating the price drop.

Roque Mai, Managing Director, B.M.D.C.

“We look at calendar year. B.M.D.C. brings onion to substitute the market which is the local starts at mid February. But what happened this year is that we collided being the fact that the local onion came in too early to harvest and also it was harvested green. Why would you harvest green onions, is what we are asking? The technical people are there in the Ministry of Agriculture advising them that this is not the correct time to harvest onion. [But] because the price was right then—it was sixty dollars a bag—Tom, Dick and Harry want to take advantage of this and [they] went ahead and harvest it. And the middle man came in and beat down the price. The middle is the one that purchase from us.”

Jose Sanchez

“So you are saying the farmers are competing with your imported prices. That’s what they are saying also. They can’t afford to compete with what you import.”

Roque Mai

“Perfect. You have a choice of taste on your table. I can’t deny it.”

Jose Sanchez

“But don’t you think Belizeans, the public, would prefer to buy something that we grow at home rather than supporting the economy of Holland?”

Roque Mai

“The concept of every individual is hard to change. It’s just like: you like your choice, I like my choice. Maybe I don’t like that type; you don’t like that type. But my advice is to every Belizean in this country, support your local farmers.”

Jose Sanchez

“But if you’re importing, they don’t have to worry. There is not supporting if you are bringing something that’s cheaper from abroad.”

Roque Mai

“Ok perfect then. What would I do then in September or August when the local onion finishes? What I need fi do? Advice me what to do.”

Jose Sanchez

“But this is not September or August. They are saying we have it now and you didn’t have to import.”

Roque Mai

“When we imported, the onion was still green. If they harvest that, it would harvest green. I need to clear this fact because we are being damaged, we are being criticized. The fact is that the onions were harvested in January fifteenth. I have records; I went on the field. I was in the field negotiating with the Corozal Farmers Association. I purchased on February the fifteenth, I purchased a hundred and thirty bags from them at forty-five dollars a bag. On January fifteenth it was at sixty dollars a bag. So on February, one month after, there was forty-five. When B.M.D.C. purchased forty-five dollars a bag, the next day you know what happened? The same onion farmers, they were selling at the market at thirty dollars. So by the end of February, onions were at twenty dollars. So we ended up selling the local onion that we purchased from them at twenty dollars.”

Raul Mai

Raul Mai, Secretary, Corozal Onion Producers Group

“As a farmer, we try to get in contact before we come into production. From when we start to plant onions—we usually plant onions in the months of September, October so that we come into production in January, mid-January. And this is the reason why we always call and invite different departments—we invite the minister, we invite his C.E.O., Mister Eugene Waight, we invite BAHA, we invite Customs, we invite marketing board—for us to come and sit down and let’s talk about when we are going to come into production.”

Jose Sanchez

“Orange Walk farmers and Corozal farmers, they all planted, they are all suffering right now. Are you saying that they caused it upon themselves? They are saying it’s you—if you didn’t import, people would be buying their onions and not the ones you imported from Holland.”

Roque Mai

“Ok then, what differences—I put mathematical—what difference do a sixty-five thousand do to a million pound?”

Jose Sanchez

“You are answering a question with a question. I am asking you specifically: Orange Walk and Corozal people are you saying it’s their fault? They put it on you and you’re saying it’s not you. Then who did it? Who imported these things?”

Roque Mai

“The same question I am asking. Who has the fault? B.M.D.C. or the farmers?”

Jose Sanchez

“They say it’s you.”

Roque Mai

“Ok so you think B.M.D.C. will take the fault? I’m clearing a point. You came here to do an interview. I’m giving you answers.”

Jose Sanchez

“But where is the answer in a question?”

Roque Mai

“Calendar again. Normally harvesting starts in mid-February for local farmers. We took a calendar every year. We program the orders.”

Jose Sanchez

“Did you tell them when to plant too? They said they invited the ministry, C.E.O., everybody to meet with them and nobody has come to meet with them. They have funerals; they have different things to do. But they are saying—Orange Walk and Corozal farmers—they all have losses and they put it on you Mister Mai. And I am asking you: are you saying it’s you or is it them? Why can’t they sell their onions if they are competing against what you imported from Holland? That’s their viewpoint.”

Roque Mai

“Like I’ve said, we have onions in the warehouse, or bodega , whatever you want to call it. So B.M.D.C. is losing.”

We’ll have more on this story in Wednesday’s newscast.

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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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16 Responses for “Marketing Board says it’s not to blame for onion farmers’ crisis”

  1. Earl Grey says:

    Another EXAMPLE OF GROSS INCOMPETENCE………………..BY THIS ADMINISTRATION.

  2. RedBwai says:

    This guy sounds so ignorant and arrogant….no form of PR… who in hell let him speak to the media on behalf of the Marketing Board?? Are these the type of stupid people they have working for the markeing board? No wonder they have conflicts with the onion farmers.. I blame the marketing board and their incompetent staff…

  3. MADDYVANDIJK/DEREALIST says:

    Roque Mai, doesn’t give a $#!% about the onion growers, they only care to reap for themselves in every given situation. And if there is any truth in what he is saying here, then the farmers should educated themselves first on how to run a decent organization within themselves. The price for onions should remain one price for every farmer in the organization instead of the “greedy” trying to outdo the others. Anyway, enough time wasted here.

  4. BZNinCALI says:

    Who’s on first. No Who’s on second, What’s on first. No What’s on third, Who is on first. Is everyone crazy. One day you people will shock us & get something right.

  5. Corozaleño says:

    It was the BMDC who started all the price squabbling. As the imported onion started to hit the market, the price fell drastically in a matter of like 3 days. I remember I was selling at 60 and I took an order of 20 sacks for the next day and when the guy came to pick it up he said he can only pay 45 dollars because marketing board is selling at that price. By the end of the week the same guy wanted to buy at 20 dollars at which point I refused to sell my hard work at that price, now am stuck with my onion thanks to the BMDC onion and the middle men as Roque Mai called them.

  6. Jan says:

    No big deal. Just blame the poor & the ignorant. When do you think the rich & the arrogant will ever be at fault. Only in Belize…

  7. Mick says:

    Wow! I mean WOW! This Roque Mai sounds like an ignorant buffoon and acts like one also. This reeks of arrogance and I do not know who selected/employed this person but there has got to be a change! How can he try and defend this gross incompetence is beyond me. If the GOB is complicit in he being the head of Marketing Board, my advice is to get rid of him, post haste, as he will drag them down. Well, further, as he has done what he can to do damage. People who know me will tell you that I abhor the word stupid, but this guy deserves it! And am still apologizing to the stupid people in the world to elevate him to that level!

  8. belizeanpride says:

    this guy mai shows how arrogant this gov. administrators are. how he handles the questions asked and not answering them as a person of a status which should be respected. i’d say only because he’s behind does sun glass he spoke like that let him take if off and face the people and see he pisses his pants. what a shame for the country now that internationally we’ve shown what arrogant people control gov. deparmtents like this. if i’d be jose i’ll bunch him in the mouth directly for being an idiot and letting down this hard working famrers who struggle to survive a bring a rise in our low economy leaded by the baldhead man good for nothing.

  9. Bel Can says:

    What must we do as Belizeans to up lift our country? We got rid of the dreaded colonialism but are allowing ourselves to be smothered by globalization. The sick thing is that only a few are profiting from this and the rest of us are scrambling to find food to eat and just survive. I wish for a leadership that would say “We will not eat till each and every little child has been fed” I know that it is not likely but with a small population, so many of us below the poverty line, you would think that we could set down our collective foot and say NO !@#%ING MORE. When blood and chaos reign then will you listen?

  10. Disgusted! says:

    Roque Mai is Managing Director of the Marketing Board??????? Really????????? This arrogant schmuck is in dire need of night classes because, obviously, he is desperately lacking in P.R. skills and rationale. I know Std 4 students who express themselves better than this @$$hole. MAI goodness!!!

  11. Elgin Martinez says:

    These are the kind of people that are appointed to Public Office in the Jewel arrogant and,ignorant .All this is done on purpose so that the Belizean People are kept in the dark.It is also a form of intimidation used against our people so as not to request any form of assistance from this Government.It’s such ashame how we keep allowing these politicians to treat us like fools.

  12. Earl Grey says:

    Well…we’ll eat lots of Escabeche………….. I LOVE ESCABECHE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    MAYBE WE CAN LEARN TO MAKE FRENCH ONION SOUP TOO……………not bad.

  13. LARGE AND SEXY says:

    I AM NOT CONDONING THE ACTIONS OF THE GOB, BUT AS A COOK AND CHEF I PREFER IMPORTED ONIONS, I AM NOT SAYING THE LOCAL ONIONS ARE NOT GOOD BUT IS INFERIOR TO THE IMPORTED ONES, HOWEVER I STILL WOULD SUPPORT OUR LOCAL FARMERS IF THEY WOULD SELL THEIR ONIONS CHEAPER, SOMETIMES THEIR PRICES ARE AS EXPENSIVE AS THE IMPORTED ONES, SO I GO THE THE BETTER QUALITY ONE.
    SORRY TO BE SO HARSH BUT WHEN I MAKE MY ECABECHE AND RELLENO I NEED GOOD ONIONS OR ELSE I WILL LOSE MY COSTUMERS TOO!

  14. CLEANHEART says:

    OH MY, YES THIS A BIG LOSS FOR THE FARMERS, BUT MY QUESTION IS WHY THEY PLANTED SO MUCH AND I AM SURE THEY REALIZED IN TIME THAT THE ONIONS WERE ROTTING WHY THEY DIDN’T DONATED IT TO THE POOR OR THE OLD FOLKS HOME, CHILDREN HOME ECT ECT, I AM SURE THE ONIONS DIDN’T ROTTEN OVER NIGHT. MY THIS IS SO SAD, I WISH THEY WOULD HAVE GIVEN THE ONIONS AWAY IN TIME, I STILL KIND OF BLAME THE FARMERS,
    I HOPE THE GOV REALIZE THIS LOSS AND STOP IMPORT FOOD THAT CAN BE BOUGHT LOCALLY. I PREFER TO SUPPORT LOCAL FARMERS THOUGH.

  15. louisville,ky says:

    Roque Mai is a sorry excuse for a head of department. He is either unwilling or unable to answer simple questions put to him and that should be a no-no for someone in his position.
    Granted, we are all affected by the tentacles of globalization. However, those in authority must do everything in their power to protect local industries. If not, then we will see more of the same as experienced by our onion farmers.
    And to our Belizean consumers, you need to sometimes adjust your palates and support our home grown products. We ought not to be complaining about foreigners taking the few available jobs when we send our hard earned currency all the way to Holland, just for some onions with flavors we are accustomed to.
    If this thing is going to work in the Jewel, then each and everyone must assist in things that sometimes seem to be insignifcant. Believe it or not the spin off effect can even ease the crime and violence.
    You may be thinking: what does the price of onions have to do with crime and violence in the country? Food for thought my people……just food for thought.

  16. David says:

    Same way we import…why don’t we export…if we have produce so much and only have four years of experience with producing onions…in the future the quality will only get better than the ones we are now importing…Our country needs this…maybe we could see our own variety in the US market …just like Marie Sharp…once we use to illegally produce one of the best marijuana product

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