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Nov 2, 2011

Citrus Factory rejects Farmer’s oranges

The Citrus factory in Pomona revved up today for the new crop season. Oranges and grapefruits are fetching good prices on the export market, but the trouble is that the processor, Citrus Products of Belize Limited, is not yet ready to receive the oranges that are beginning to rot in the orchards. Growers say they are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in what should have been a good early crop. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was down south today and has this report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The production of grapefruit concentrate for export to the world market resumed today at Citrus Products of Belize Ltd. to coincide with the start of the new crop year.  The CCB factory opened its doors to hundreds of growers across the citrus belt amidst concerns that early variety fruits, specifically oranges, will not be processed until the second or third week in November.  The delay, for many farmers, translates into a massive loss in revenue as groves of ripe fruits lie rotting beneath citrus trees in the valley.

Henry Anderson, C.E.O., Citrus Growers Association

Henry Anderson

“There’s no contention about processing grapefruit, grapefruit needs to be processed.  The issue is that you have growers who have oranges that need to be processed and CPBL has informed that it will be monitoring that situation and in their view they will look to process oranges either the week of the ninth or the week of the sixteenth.  We did a check around the industry and between early oranges and an odd crop of Valencia, just as how the industry had an odd crop of grapefruit in August due to Hurricane Richard there is also an odd crop of Valencia.”

The decision by CPBL to postpone the processing of early variety oranges comes at great expense to Colin Langford who has lost in excess of thirty thousand dollars.  His problems also began in early August.

Colin Langford

Colin Langford, Citrus Grower

“I had a grapefruit crop that was ready and I reaped and I sent in some but I was left back with about three thousand boxes of grapefruit that was left in the orchards that the factory couldn’t take because they said they were closing so I lost all that amount of fruit and money.  That’s over twenty-one thousand dollars for the grapefruit and then presently we have the early variety oranges which have been ready for the last month or month and a half, from September or early October and I have list three quarters of that.  I would say another ten, fifteen thousand dollars worth of losses I have sustained just in the oranges alone.  So overall I have lost over thirty-five, thirty to thirty-five thousand dollars.”

…and that’s only one farmer.  According to Henry Anderson, head of the Citrus Growers Association, the shortfall within the industry is widespread.

Henry Anderson

“I am being told by my guys that they have approximately sixty-five thousand, five hundred boxes of oranges that are ready to go right now.  Growers have been complaining about losses of early oranges.  The early oranges tend to mature up by the end of September.  Normally the factory would open in mid-October and those would be processed right up front.  So growers are experiencing losses to this.  It ranges differently but you have one grower [who] said he lost three thousand boxes.  This was a couple days ago I got that.  Another one lost about five hundred boxes.  I don’t have a clear picture of how much has been lost but if you put that out to about five thousand boxes on the conservative side at thirteen dollars per box that’s a significant amount of money.”

The rationale behind the decision to stave off the production of orange concentrate, as stated by CPBL’s management, is that oranges being harvested and brought into the factory are failing the maturity test.  P.M. Barrow during his quarterly press conference spoke briefly on the issue.

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“Earlies are dealt with every crop year.  There’s nothing new about accepting earlies so the argument of, they say the C.E.O., so as not to personalize it let me say CPBL, that the oranges, I gather grapefruit is fine, but that the oranges are not of a quality to be acceptable, is as you pointed out rejected by, it seems, all the citrus growers.  So we, the minister is taking the message to CPBL.”

CPBL, on the other hand, has reportedly told its parent company, CGA, that the oranges are of inferior quality.

Henry Anderson

“There’s a thing called a maturity test and that the results they are getting indicates the oranges aren’t passing.  But the growers are saying “listen every year for the past fifty years our earlies are ready. We know they are ready, why, because they are falling off the trees being over mature.  Also, when you look at the quality issue it’s an important issue but when you start processing juice at the beginning of the year you will have to store some of that juice and then you blend it with higher ratio juice that you get later on in the year and you’d still have a USDA grade one product.”

Until the company decides to begin accepting oranges Langford says he will continue to lose money on existing crops.

Colin Langford

“I have grapefruit that is ready right now and I started reaping this morning like how the factory opened earlier on today but the oranges, they still haven’t opened for the oranges yet so I will continue to lose on the oranges until the factory is open.  They say next week or week after to start taking oranges so I’ll be losing on the oranges.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Meanwhile, the citrus harvest committee met on Tuesday to approve the delivery program for this season. A number of decisions were taken that primarily have to do with efficiency of the deliveries to the factory.

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1 Response for “Citrus Factory rejects Farmer’s oranges”

  1. louisville,ky says:

    It seems to me that Dr. Canton is being his usual self and doing some muscle flexing here. Why….I don’t know. As CGA’s Anderson rightly said Earlies are nothing new to the citrus crop and the factories have been processing them at this stage for half a century or more. The quality of Belize’s citrus is such that it is used to blend and enhance the taste of juices originating elsewhere in the international market.
    As Anderson said, why not process the earlies and later on, blend that juice with the higher grade juice which has been the custom that did not compromise any at all, the premium quality of Belize’s citrus products.
    Processing the Earlies could then become a win win situation. In these trying financial times, it goes without saying that these Farmers can ill afford to see their dollars fall off the trees and rot in the orchards.

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