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Aug 12, 2019

Preparing Local Farmers to Meet the Demands of the Sheep Industry

For the past four years, the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Agriculture has been working on expanding the sheep farming industry in Belize. The aim of the project is for local farmers to satisfy the demand of the multimillion-dollar market in the Caribbean and Central America. But in order to meet the required standards of the export market, farmers must learn more about sheep rearing and best practices, including the establishment of a cooperative for the farmers. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Over eight hundred million U.S. dollars in mutton or lamb is imported into the Caribbean on a yearly basis, but sheep farmers in Belize have yet to tap into that multimillion-dollar market. In fact, there are currently about thirteen thousand sheep managed by a few farmers in the country and that is not even close to meeting the standards or demands of the international market.


Andrew Mejia

Andrew Mejia, National Focal Point, Sheep Development, Ministry of Agriculture

“Throughout the Caribbean and Central America, the sheep industry has spiked. We are still behind. Right now we have introduced new genetics through the sheep project—thanks to the Taiwanese—and now we also moving towards organization of farmers and lastly we are registering farmers and their sheep to create what we call a traceability system so in the future we can export sheep to neighbouring countries and the Caribbean.”


Since 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture has been focused on creating a competitive sheep farming enterprise in Belize. To expand the local industry, farmers from Corozal and Cayo Districts, including men, women and youths are being trained by the ministry in collaboration with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Cooperative Department on sheep management.


Andrew Mejia

“That entails feeding, breeding and strategies as to how the farmers can develop their farming systems in sheep. We want to look on the basic management principles; record keeping and also farmers’ organization that will be done by mainly the Cooperative Department.”


Duane Moody

“Talk to us about the people that are being engaged. I know that you said that it is farmers from both Cayo and Corozal.”


Andrew Mejia

“Yes, these are small farmers that we are working with. They are in the process of being registered as a cooperative. Very important; in the Ministry of Agriculture, one of our biggest constraints is farmer’s organization and we are having difficulties organizing farmers countrywide. So this initiative with the cooperative, they are doing a wonderful job in organizing these farmers and it’s our job as technical personnel to ensure that they get trained and they are well capable of actually managing and running their small enterprises.”


Providing expertise in sheep farming, breeding and the various types of sheep for the developing industry is the Taiwanese government.  The goal is to improve the general productivity of the industry in Belize.


Hsu Cheng Chih

Hsu Cheng Chih, Specialist, Taiwan/Belize Sheep Project

“We start from the foundation to the production label. So from foundation, we teach them how to prepare their land, their protein resources for the sheep, grass. Then we go to the breeding stretch, which means we teach them how to use a run, more efficiency. Then we go to the supplementary feeding.  We have to strengthen the supplement feeding in the lamb for them to grow faster and then we will complete the production procedure.”


But to export sheep meat into the Central American and the Caribbean regions, a traceability system must be put in place and Belize is in the infancy stage of that process. National Focal Point for Sheep Development, Andrew Mejia says that when established, the benefits will be widespread.


Andrew Mejia

“It’s a slow process knowing that the sheep industry is very small. We only have a population of about thirteen to fourteen thousand sheep in the country. We are hoping to grow the industry first, organize the industry in such a way that we don’t leave any loopholes when it is time to export.”


Hsu Cheng Chih

“We have to start from the local market first. Some of the market in Cayo is quite good, but some of the farmers in Corozal have difficulty to find market. So the cooperative organized is quite important for the regional market. But in the future, we have to follow some requirement to export. For example, the traceability for the health aspect cannot be done in a short while. But it must start from now. For example they are requesting everything must be traced from the production, slaughterhouse to the meat processing.”


Duane Moody for 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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