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Jul 4, 2019

BAHA Seizes 20,000 Pounds of Contraband Commodities in June

The BAHA Quarantine team has implemented a number of measures to crack down on the contraband business. Those efforts include checkpoints for inspections, as well as surveillance and intelligence gathering to regulate imports to prevent entry of pests and diseases. The contraband problem is not unique to onions. There is also a Medfly outbreak along the Placencia Peninsula, which was introduced by contraband fresh fruits and vegetables.  Margarito Garcia says it is an ongoing fight to intercept illegal commodities because of our porous borders.  The team has identified Guatemala and Mexico as key contraband origins, as well as Honduras to the south. It is a problem that is tough to tackle because it is happening by land and sea. Garcia shares more about the wider contraband picture and the risks of these black market goods in Belize.

 

Margarito Garcia

Margarito Garcia, Technical Director of Quarantine, BAHA

“I can tell you that on a monthly basis we are intercepting couple thousands of fresh fruits and meat products that we consider high risk and we destroy through incineration. That is something that we do constantly. Since two weeks ago we have been hearing that farmers complain that they can’t sell their products. We have been out there. Just in the past month we have intercepted twenty thousand pounds of illegally imported commodities, just last month alone.  Based on what we know it could be from importers. It could be from the man that brings one or two bags every day. It is one-one bag but every bus that passes, for example this morning we were out there, every bus that comes into Belize City was intercepted with illegal commodities and nobody claims. So, the one-one, like you know the one-one fills a basket and that is what is really happening.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“How does it affect us really? What do you say to people who may say that they will buy it because it will save them a couple dollars – because this does have an impact on our economy?”

 

Margarito Garcia

“It sure does. Bringing illegally imported commodities do compete with our local produce as we can see in the case with the onions where our farmers can’t sell their products because they flood the market with contraband and in that way our farmers can’t sell his product. Another way how it can affect us is if these things are illegally transported these things don’t go through any sort of inspection to verify the safety of that commodity and when it is imported and not properly regulated through inspections then you can import an commodity that is inferior and can also affect human health. We all know that contraband comes and they hide it in bushes, along rivers, along the roads and these can get infected with food-borne bacteria that can cause human health problems like food poisoning. We hear about leptospirosis that can also be transmitted from contraband vegetables that get contaminated because people don’t wash their contraband vegetables good and that is how people get sick as well. So, it can affect the industry that buys products for processing; it affects the farmers buy not being able to sell his local produce.  So, overall it is something that is concerning. We really want to ask the general public to understand and cooperate with us and to inform us and give us information of where we can intercept these contraband goods.”


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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