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Feb 5, 2019

Local Potato Producers Fear Losing Revenue to Imported Mexican Potatoes

Tonight there is growing concern among farmers in San Carlos Village, Orange Walk. Potato farmers are worried that their investment and weeks of hard work will be all for naught because they are unable to sell their products in the local market. Currently, there is a surplus of imported white potatoes from Mexico in the market, making it difficult for local farmers to sell their product. In January, farmers met with representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture who told them that the issuance of licenses for the importation of white potato will no longer be allowed. Today, however, white potatoes can still be found in the local market and it has farmers frustrated.  News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Twenty-eight-year-old Danny Hernandez has been a farmer for about ten years. Today, we found him at his potato farm in San Carlos Village, Orange Walk. He allocated two point five acres of land for the planting and harvesting of local red potatoes. Hernandez says he has invested eight thousand dollars in his farm which is expected to yield more than twenty thousand pounds of potatoes. But today, Hernandez is worrying that he might not have the opportunity to make a profit from his back-breaking work.


Danny Hernandez

Danny Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos Village

“I spend a lot of money and I have a lot of things to pay. I have to pay the bank. I have to pay the Mennonite. It is very sad for me because it is a lot of money that I spent here. This one they get bigger. They have fifteen days more and they get bigger, like one pound. If I harvest right now I will have a problem because there are a lot of potatoes right now. By the time they get ready, I have to harvest and I will not have any sale for that.”


The farmers are growing concerned that with the local market saturated with imported white potato from Mexico, that there is no space for them to sell their red potatoes. Israel Hernandez traveled to Belize City with twenty sacks of red potatoes on Monday. He managed to sell twelve sacks at ninety cents per pound at one hundred pounds per sack.


Israel Hernandez, Farmer, San Carlos Village

“Yesterday I couldn’t sell all because it is too much.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Are the imported potatoes from Mexico better than this?”


Israel Hernandez

Israel Hernandez

“Never because these potatoes look good. Yesterday went I went to the Chinese and I asked if they want to buy potatoes. The Chinese man asked me what kind of potatoes I am selling. I told him the local one and he said he doesn’t want it because I want the Mexican one.”


Efrain Corado grew up farming. He is currently harvesting four acres of the red potato. He is expecting to yield about forty-thousand pounds at an investment of over a thousand dollars. Corado has his workers storing the potatoes in a bodega until the market is able to accept his produce. But the time frame in which the potatoes can be stored without going rotten is limited.


Efrain Corado

Efrain Corado, Farmer, San Carlos Village

“Until there is a business because right now there is no business which is why we are storing them in the bodega.”



“How long can the potatoes be stored until there begin to spoil?”


Efrain Corado

“Maybe one or two months.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Why do you say that there is no business?”


Efrain Corado

“Because yesterday we took some to Belize and we barely managed to sell twelve sacks of a hundred pounds.”


Hipolito Novelo

“What did the persons who buy the potatoes tell you as to why they are not buying the potatoes?”


Efrain Corado

“Because there are still Mexicans and there is no business for the locals as yet.”


Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Representative, Orange Walk South

“Here in San Carlos, the probably expected harvest is almost half a million pounds of potatoes. If you divide by sixty-thousand pounds minimum you are talking about eight weeks of potato really. So all the farmers in San Carlos are asking really is to give ‘me eight weeks protection so I can sell my potatoes and make money so that I can feed my family at a dollar at pound.’ That is all the farmers are asking. The farmers in Cayo maybe asking for another six or eight weeks. That is all the farmers are asking from the government and the consumers. Give me eight weeks so I can sell my product. I am not asking you to give me any money. Just buy my product and allow me to sell my product at a reasonable affordable price so I can pay my cost of producing, pay the financial institutions and feed my family. Is that much to ask from the Belizean public and from this government? I don’t think so.”


At the Orange Walk market, we found red and white potatoes. Market Vendor Berta Velasco says she bought the red potatoes from farmers of the Mennonite communities. She wasn’t too please with the quality of the potatoes that the farmers of San Carlos Village sold her last year.


Berta Velasco

Berta Velasco, Market Vendor

“I would to tell the farmers in San Carlos to bring better potatoes. Last year, they brought potatoes with holes and I couldn’t sell them.”


Hipolito Novelo

“Who loses?”


Berta Velasco

“We do. They don’t lose anything because we pay them, they take the cash, but who loses is us.”


Hipolito Novelo

“And this year, the producers from San Carlos have come here to sell their products?”


Beta Velasco

“Here at the market, they have not come. Only the Mennonites have come to sell their potatoes. Those from San Carlos have not come.”


According to Orange Walk South Area Representative, Jose Abelardo Mai, a meeting was held in January among stakeholders including farmers who were told that the issuance of import license for potatoes has ceased. With Belizeans consuming more than sixty thousands pounds of potatoes a week, farmers expected that by the time their potatoes were ready for harvesting, the white potato would have been out of the market.


Jose Abelardo Mai

“If the last permit was issued on the eleventh of January and there is stil potato on the market, what this is saying, means is that those permits have lasted three weeks on the market and maybe there are more out there. It makes me wonder how much permits were given and what volumes were distributed. It makes me wonder.”


It makes the farmers worry. If the farmers manage to inject their red potatoes in the local market now, they will compete with the importers of the white potatoes. The prices will decrease and the local farmers will feel the negative effects.


Jose Abelardo Mai

“The consumers keep pushing down the famers’ price so there is no kind of subsidy for the farmers here. So the Mexican potato is at less than half the price that is sold here. So an importer would prefer to buy imported potato and sell it to a Chinese businessman or wholesaler or to a retailer because he is making fifty dollars profit per sack. So he will tend to go to buy from the Mexicans than buy the Belizean farmers where he will make only ten dollars per sack. So there is no support for the farmer. Now the crop is just starting and already the farmer say he went to Belize City yesterday and he took two thousand pounds which is twenty bags. He was only able to sell twelve bags. He has to bring back the potato all the way from Belize City to San Carlos again. Now I hope for the farmer’s sake that that is not or will not be the situation for this year.”


Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

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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