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Mar 25, 2014

Crops destroyed in Valley of Peace by Green Tropics and farmers want compensation

Aerial sparing carried by the Spanish company, Green Tropics, has caused the destruction of about a million dollars in crop in thirty-two farms in the Valley of Peace area. As we reported on Friday, Green Tropics carried out the spraying on March fifteenth; it is the same company that grazed several acres of the Jaguar Corridor in 2012.  The herbicide used by the company is believed to be the potent round-up.  While the results of tests won’t be known for about a week, four government agencies are assessing the damage done to the vegetables.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The destruction of an array of produce on an expansive acreage of farmland near Valley of Peace a week and a half ago, the result of crop-dusting conducted by Green Tropics Ltd., will have a ripple effect on consumers across the local market.  For the past twenty years, the Valley of Peace Farmers Association has evolved to become the single largest supplier of vegetables, primarily cabbage, pepper and cucumber to Cayo and Belize Districts.  While the value of the loss is still being calculated, a taskforce comprised of relevant government agencies are wasting no time in coming to the planters’ aid.  Roberto Harrison is the Chief Agricultural Officer.

 

Roberto Harrison

Roberto Harrison, Chief Agricultural Officer

“We brought in the Department of the Environment, the Pesticides Control Board and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority to assist us in making a thorough assessment of the alleged damage that they were claiming that Green Tropics, as a result of their aerial-spraying, had done.  We proceeded to do that on Wednesday and what we did was to roll out on the thirty-two farms to have taken samples, leave samples that is, to do two things: one was to make a photographic comparative of what we saw visually and to compare those with photographs of similar damage done by Roundup, the chemical that was used.  Those visual comparisons indicate in certain ways that, or they look similar, the damage from the photographs and the damage that is appearing on the cabbage out in the field there were similar.”

 

In speaking with News Five on Friday, Guillermo Marroquin said that he believes the herbicide which was used during the flyover was glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

 

Guillermo Marroquin

Guillermo Marroquin, President, Valley of Peace Farmers Association [File: March 21st, 2014]

“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.”

 

To conclusively determine whether the damage was the result of that particular chemical, specimens will be sent abroad for testing on Wednesday.

 

Roberto Harrison

“The samples were also collected to be sent to a laboratory to confirm that in fact it was Roundup that was used or that Roundup was causing the yellowing of cabbage leaves on the field.  We have only gotten a confirmation from a lab in the U.S. today, that will take the samples.  Those samples will now be shipped tomorrow.  It will be another week before we can get analysis of what that result will be.”

 

In the meantime, the farmers have roughly estimated their loss at a million dollars.  While Green Tropics’ country representative Beverly Burke declined comment, Harrison says that the company can be sanctioned if is confirmed that they are culpable.

 

Beverly Burke

Roberto Harrison

“Green Tropics would have to accept that the damage was done by them and in accept then they will have to compensate the farmers for the damage that has been caused there.  We have a crop valuation methodology that we used, it costs plants in various stages.  We would then take that into account and put a value cost of the damage.  Obviously, that probably doesn’t coincide with the market value today of, for example, the retail price of cabbage today but it gives a good representation of what the cost of that plant would have been today, so that it will definitely provide some guide to the farmers to negotiate compensation to Green Tropics.”

 

Despite the possibility of compensation, Marroquin believes that they would still incur a significant loss since it is understood that the farmers will not be paid for the time invested in planting and cultivating their crops.

 

Guillermo Marroquin

“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.”

 

The overall effect of the damage however, will be felt in your pockets, as it is likely that produce will have to be imported to make up for the shortfall.

 

Roberto Harrison

“Clearly we will need to.  The farmers group there controls the Belize City market and the Cayo market; that, with the acreage that was damaged clearly we would probably need to import to offset that loss there.  Obviously, the importation would possibly be at a higher cost so the consumer would probably end up paying a little bit more for, in this case, cabbage, which was the main commodity that was planted out there.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “Crops destroyed in Valley of Peace by Green Tropics and farmers want compensation”

  1. r-dale says:

    See John Carr was right. They should have planted GMO seeds.

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