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Apr 28, 2021

Sugar Cane Varieties and Pest Management Validation Project is Launched

The first phase of a five-year project to build the adaptive capacity of sugarcane farmers in northern Belize was virtually launched on Tuesday. In its first year, the Belize Sugar Industry Limited (B.S.I.) and the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) will be carrying out research on cane varieties and its resistance to climate change as well as an integrated pest management plan. News Five’s Duane Moody files this report.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Financed by the Green Climate Fund and managed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center, the project seeks to make the sugar industry in northern Belize climate smart and climate resilient. It is a necessary change in agricultural practices in order to adapt to the impact of climate change on the industry.


Ryan Zuniga

Ryan Zuniga, Project Development Specialist, CCCCC

“Climate change consequences for sugarcane productions in developing countries such as Belize is particularly acute due to low adaptive capacity and high vulnerability to natural hazard.”


…and the situation is dire. In 2019, forty-two percent of production was lost by climate conditions such as hurricanes, droughts and floods, and small farmers were most impacted. With crop models indicating that sugarcane yield may decrease by twenty to forty percent under a double carbon dioxide climate change scenario, countries like Belize must engage in mitigative efforts quickly. One such measure is the introduction of new varieties that are resilient to environmental stresses. For more than six decades, B.S.I. has invested considerably in the research and development of sugarcane varieties.


Mac McLachlan

Mac McLachlan, Vice President, A.S.R. Group

“The variety programme is going to be a really good transformational boost for the industry.  I wanted to point out that that process started about ten years ago to get to where we are and B.S.I. has been very happy to coordinate through its financing of the West Indian cane breeding station in Barbados to the creation or to get these crosses of varieties to a point where we can now push them out, try them in farmers’ fields and diversify our variety crop which will help with resilience to climate change.”


Adrian Zetina

Adrian Zetina, Chief of Research & Development, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“This project is about validating pre-commercial varieties in the different agro-ecological zones in the industry. The program through twelve years of research and over a five step process has identified a number of promising varieties that have shown performance better than the commercial varieties that are currently in the industry.”


That validation will see the establishment of plots of the sugarcane varieties in different zones followed by a monitoring process. Varieties aside, pests are another compounding issue. The project looks at the development of a management plan, which begins with identifying the areas susceptible to the stem borer.


Leticia Westby

Leticia Westby, Interim Director, SIRDI

“If nothing is being done to control the stem borer, it will seriously have implications in the quality of our sugar cane. We normally here from other countries, from neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala that they do have the diatraea saccharalis, diatraea magnifactela, the euroma loftini, but in our local conditions, Belize we want to have the proper identification of the sugarcane stem borer. This will help us to implement an integrated approach.”


David Akerman

David Akerman, Sugarcane Farmer

“The stem borer has been in the industry for…from I could recall, for the last forty-two years, but it was liveable. It wasn’t a factor in causing major damage. But because it is a concern now for the industry, I think the approach what the researchers are doing – and I have to applaud that it is a joint effort within the industry of the associations, SIRDI and ASR – that the approach of learning their habitat, learning their life cycle, I think that is important.”


…and the work continues. There must be collaborative effort in the agricultural sector and B.S.I. believes that it is the transformation of the industry.


Olivia Avilez

Olivia Avilez, Cane Farmer Relations Manager, B.S.I./ASR Group

“We are very grateful to the Green Climate Fund for providing the financial assistance and also technical support throughout this process. We are very grateful to the Ministry of Economic Development for guiding us through the right path for their support in this project.”


Ryan Zuniga

“We will work as much as we can to support these initiatives to ensure that it is beneficial to all that are involved and even those that are not beyond the implementation of this project. We plan to support them as best as we could.”


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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