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Sep 20, 2019

A Breakdown of Industries Most Affected by Drought

As much as fifty million dollars have been lost in produce by farmers due to drought. Sugar, corn and the livestock industries have taken a huge blow and production of primary products is expected to decline thus affecting the bottom line of farmers.  On Thursday, the Minister of Agriculture painted a grim picture of the state of affairs. Here is News Five’s Isani Cayetano.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The effect of the drought on agriculture has been far-reaching, affecting everything from the sugar industry to livestock and losses across the agro-productive sector have been significant.  The lack of rain has caused massive crop and livestock losses, currently estimated to be north of fifty million dollars.  Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse provides a detailed analysis of the major crops and the hit they have suffered as a result of the extended drought, beginning with the sugar industry.


Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Minister of Agriculture

“In sugar we understand that there’s about thirty to fifty percent of what they consider damaged and this is primarily a significant decrease in the re-growth and development, the stalk thickness of the plant, the height of the plant and the active leaves.  And so the estimate is that there will be a significant reduction in delivery of cane in the upcoming 2019/2020 season.  Most of the damage was observed in the older cane, the ones that were cut first, that was delivered last year around November and December, because they normally grow back and cane is a resilient plant, it’s family to the grass plant.  It will come back.”


It is predicted that in the 2019/2020 season sugarcane harvest will decline by roughly thirty percent, down to about nine hundred thousand tons of cane delivered to the mill at Tower Hill.  This will, as a consequence, result in significantly lower sugar production which will affect Belize’s foreign exchange revenue.


Godwin Hulse

“We estimate that in fact, well because we know that 1.3 million tons was delivered in the 2018/2019 season which was a record season producing roughly a hundred and fifty thousand tons that a thirty percent decrease will leave us with about nine hundred thousand tons being delivered with a significant decrease in sugar as well.  And as Mrs. Bedran said, well you know that has its spin off across the entire sector, including our foreign exchange earnings.”


Corn has also been seriously affected by the prolonged dry weather, in both Cayo and Corozal districts where thousands of acres of maize withered away due to a lack of adequate rainfall.


Godwin Hulse

“In corn… the biggest hit was in yellow corn and it was the Cayo District.  We had fourteen thousand, eight hundred and seventy acres of yellow corn damaged, and by damaged we mean reduced yield.  The corn is going to yield but the average yield is five thousand pounds per acre, we’re looking at about two thousand.  In the Corozal District we lost all the yellow corn, four thousand, two hundred acres and white corn, one thousand, one hundred acres.  White corn is not grown in any significant quantity in the Cayo District, we are told.”


Insofar as livestock, the cattle industry has also been dealt a crippling blow.  While cattle aren’t dying due to a lack of water and grass, they are reports of massive weight loss, an average of fifty pound per cow.  At a dollar and fifty cents per pound of beef it is easy to see where farmers are losing at the meat shop.


Godwin Hulse

“Livestock took a big hit, but livestock is a little touchy because the figures given to me that is about sixty thousand, three hundred heads of cattle that have been affected, not dead.  It means they lost weight, dehn get maga, they didn’t have water, never had grass.  So the estimate is roughly about fifty pounds per animal and of course at a dollar fifty a pound, it’s a significant reduction.”


The Ministry of Agriculture has established a transparent criteria for awarding assistance to the most deserving farmers and ranchers, and has put in place a management structure for rapid distribution and approval of all support measures. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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