Crops in Valley of Peace destroyed herbicide sprayed by Green Tropics
About a million dollars in vegetables have been destroyed in the Valley of Peace area, Cayo District. The community is the largest provider of vegetables to two districts, but the farmers have lost their crops due to crop-dusting. Green Tropics, the controversial company which grazed land in the Laboring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary in 2012, is looking like a repeat offender tonight because they are said to be responsible for the herbicide spraying. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The agrarian community of Valley of Peace is chiefly responsible for roughly seventy-five percent of all vegetables supplied to the Cayo and Belize districts, as well as Orange Walk on occasions. In the dry season, farmers here cultivate a variety of crops, including cabbage, pepper and tomato. The yield is often profitable, affording the men to take care of business. That was until a week ago when a low-flying aircraft, contracted by Green Tropics Ltd., sprayed a deadly herbicide over two hundred acres of farmland.
Hector Cerritos, Farmer, Valley of Peace
“That happened on Saturday around 8:30 when di plane mi di fly right and ih stop round three o’clock di evening.”
The result, needless to say, is devastating. The toxic effect of glyphosate can be seen everywhere, from the treetops above to the undergrowth below. Everything has been destroyed.
Guillermo Marroquin, President, Valley of Peace Farmers Association
“It looks like our plantation was infected by herbicide. Up to now we know that maybe well, it’s glyphosate and, as we can see, we will check the plants. The herbicide, we can see it, everything, everything [is damaged.] It flew over the lagoon, damaged the trees, damaged almost a hundred percent of the crop.”
“What are you guys doing now, in the wake of what has happened, in terms of either a damage assessment, notifying the authorities or even approaching the company to notify them of what has happened here?”
“Well, we have approached the company. The company came in, representatives of the company came in on Monday morning I think or Tuesday. They inspected and they said that maybe the chemical they used didn’t affect right here right, but it’s obvious. Everything, everything is burnt up, you could see the damages in the bushes, in the crop. We notified the Ministry of Agriculture We notified BAHA.”
…likewise, the Department of Environment. Green Tropics, you would recall, is the same Guatemalan company responsible for the dredging of a sizeable tract of land within the Labouring Creek Jaguar Corridor Wildlife Sanctuary in June 2012. It is once again being blamed for the wholesale destruction of vegetation.
“Cabbage, cucumber, cilantro, sweet peppers, habaneros, seedbeds, everything’s gone, every, everything. Everything, all the crops, everything.”
“Explain to me the impact of this loss on either your business, the welfare of your family and all the other farmers who are affected by what has happened here.”
“Well, right now the impact for us is what I can’t explain right because everything, everything is gone. We don’t have any entrance of money, we don’t have, practically everything we’ve invested is lost. Some of us maybe the only money we had we invested it and now everything’s lost and another thing, we are one of the biggest producers of cabbage here in Valley of Peace, right. We control almost, let’s say seventy-five percent of the market.”
The acreage is shared by the Valley of Peace Farmers Association. It has a membership of twenty-six. In dollars and cents, a little under half a million dollars has been totally destroyed, that’s without factoring in what they would have realized in profit.
“Only with the investment, without exaggerating anything maybe like four hundred thousand dollars. With the profit it would be hard to estimate but I feel maybe like, maybe a million maybe because we have a lot of members and they plant, they have a lot ready for harvest maybe and seedbeds and everything. Right now we are waiting for the tests because, you know, you have to be sure on what grounds you are standing right. Then I feel like our next step will be trying to reach the company and then sit down, talk… but I feel like anything that happens it’s still a loss for us because I feel like the company won’t recognize our hard work and our time lost.”
We were unable to get comment from Green Tropics today, but we will continue to follow this story.
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.