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Mar 29, 2019

Can UB’s Central Farm Lab Supply Half of the BGA Banana Plants?

Earlier this week we told you about some history making bananas in the south. Two plots were planted on two different farms and they are just about ready to be harvested. So what’s so special about those bananas? Well, those bananas we eat in Belize and those that are exported are actually from small plants imported from Central America. But as we reported, UB through its agriculture school at the Central Farm Campus is hoping to make a dent in the number of imported plantlets. They have the capacity to produce up to quarter of a million plantlets and while that number is not enough to supply the Banana Growers Association, it is welcomed news for the industry. But the partners working in the banana belt say that UB needs more help if they want to make this a sustainable business. Andrea Polanco reports.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The trial plots of the one hundred percent Belizean bananas have received praises from the Belize Growers Association. On farm eight of the Sagitun Banana Farm, there are two acres of three hundred and thirty-seven banana plants that are from the UB’s Central Farm Lab. It is a small sample to test out how these local bananas compare to the imported ones from Central America. The differences are very small and now UB wants to improve the quality because in the next couple years, they want to provide some of the plantlets for the industry. Every year, the industry needs about five hundred thousand banana plants. The lab has the capacity to produce about half that number a year.  But to become competitive in the business, the lab needs strong institutional support.


Zoe Roberson-Zetina

Zoe Roberson-Zetina, Agro-business Lecturer, UB

“We don’t want to say that we want to say that we want to supply all of them because we want to make sure that we maintain competitiveness in the industry. We want to be able to produce plants that are as good as or even better than Galiltec plants. And we want to the growers to voluntarily buy them; we don’t want to force our plants on them. So, within the next year we are hoping that that we can sell the growers seventy-five thousand plants and over the years we will be able to fill more of the capacity of the industry. At the interim, we would be producing at a loss but over a two to three year period we would start recovering those losses. But I think what is better is that we start to keep more of our money here at home and I am very happy that the banana growers have expressed interest and we have plants here in the fields already showing that we have the quality and the technology here in Belize that would allow us to have a better industry overall.”


And to make this a sustainable business, the lab must be able to meet at least half of the Banana Growers Association’s demand. Chairman Tony Zabaneh says they are willing to buy these local plantlets. He calls on the Ministry for support.


Tony Zabaneh

Tony Zabaneh, Chairman, Banana Growers Association

“The Ministry of Agriculture has to come and be a partner with UB and the BGA. If the association is to keep their money at home, the government of Belize has to impose some kind of law or something where UB is able to supply the industry with what it needs and when it needs it.   This industry now is a completely different ball game. And I need say now, if this government doesn’t take a serious look on this industry with us and partner in this industry, then UB will have no way of getting assurance that it will sell what it produces. And if it doesn’t sell what it produces, then it is no use of UB producing.”


Andrea Polanco

“If UB would ever reach the point where they can supply the Belizean market – would the BGA be willing to buy from them?”


Tony Zabaneh

“I see no reason why not.”


And so partners say they see the potential in this initiative and hope to see the commitments needed to get the lab to produce the banana plantlets for the BGA.


Willy Chan

Willy Chan, Technical Coordinator, IICA

“We have seen that the capacity that the UB has is there. They have been equipped with the necessary infrastructure to do it and as we have been saying it is just the commitment that we need from both the University and the agricultural sector for them to commit that they would support what the University has ventured in. I could see that it could be something successful in the years.”


Jeffy Gomez

Jeffy Gomez, Project Coordinator

“Presently, the idea is for the market for UB to expand. But a lot of work is left to be done but this is possible in the future where UB can be providing the industry between two hundred and fifty thousand to five hundred thousand per year which is necessary every year. And finally this can be exported to the European market.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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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