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Oct 28, 2021

Belize Resumes Shipment of Corn to Guatemala Under Revitalized PSA

The last shipment of corn to Guatemala was exported thirteen years ago.  Since then, the movement of wholesale grain across the western border had been dormant, despite the existence of a preferential trade agreement between Belize and Guatemala being signed in 2006 and coming into effect in 2010.  When that external market was cut off over a decade ago, Belize was forced to consume all the corn that was produced locally.  That was until earlier this month when the biggest manufacturer of corn-based products in the region came knocking.  Answering the call was Valley of Peace Farms Limited which has agreed to supply a massive tonnage of corn to Maseca, thanks to the reinvigorated Partial Scope Agreement.  This morning, News Five’s Isani Cayetano headed west and covered the inaugural shipment of grain bound for Guatemala.  Here’s his story.


Isani Cayetano, Repoting

A consignment of grain destined for Guatemala City departed from the Cayo District this morning, signaling the resumption of trade in corn between Belize and Guatemala.  The buyer is Gruma, a Mexican multinational whose global brands include Maseca, the leading brand of corn flour.  Earlier this month, the general manager of Valley of Peace Farms Ltd. received a request for a shipment of maize.


Gilbert Canton

Gilbert Canton, General Manager, Valley of Peace Farms

“About three weeks ago, Maseca reached out and said that they have a need for corn and we said that we have corn.  We went through a process of sending samples to Guatemala to see if our corn qualifies [and] the results came back very good and then last week they confirmed an order of a hundred and eighty metric tons of yellow corn and three hundred and twenty-four metric tons of white corn.  So the truck that was loaded just a while ago, that’s the first of the yellow corn that’s going out and over the next two weeks we’ll be loading out the rest of the yellow and white corn all across the border into Melchor and then on to Guatemala City to Maseca’s plant.”


These silos are designed to store up to three million tons of grains that are consolidated from producers across the country.  Thirteen years ago, trade with neighboring Guatemala ground to a screeching halt, sealing off the market that had been created for local farmers.


Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture

“We had an agreement under the reciprocal trade concept that we would import Maseca from Guatemala and we would export white corn to them.  Now white corn is not easily exported to Guatemala under the trade agreements, under the Partial Scope Agreement because it is for human consumption and so Guatemala has the small farmers producing white corn, but when there is scarcity then it can be done.”


According to Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai, who, at the time was employed by the Government of Belize, that agreement was canceled in 2008 with a change in administration.


Jose Abelardo Mai

“We know that the largest importer of corn in the region is Guatemala, in Central America.  In North America, the largest importer of corn is Mexico, they have huge populations that consume corn three times a day.  We have a small population of three hundred and eighty [thousand people] of which fifty percent is Hispanic and fifty percent is other and, therefore, our corn consumption is not as great as Central America.  So we can sustain ourselves with corn, but other countries really want the corn, especially in a year like this where there is a scarcity of corn and the prices are increasing because the cost of agro-inputs has gone up.”


Diversa, a company operating out of Belize, has a contract with Maseca for the export of corn.


Alvaro Rodriguez

Alvaro Rodriguez, Representative, Diversa

“This is our first load, it’s five containers of yellow corn going down to Guatemala’s mill, three more [containers] of white corn are going next week and we just got an order from the Honduras Maseca mills, so it’s pretty promising and we want to do a long-term pricing that will benefit all the Belizean farmers and of course we’re sending corn right now to get produced and make, well what we call Maseca around here and we make our tortillas, right.  So eventually that corn is going to come back as in flour.”


It’s an export/import cycle that is made possible through Belize’s Partial Scope Agreement with Guatemala which was revitalized earlier this year through the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“That commission had held meetings and had set up different desks and tables for officials to deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary business facilitation, et cetera.  And we have committed to having those entities start their work and working diligently and most importantly to facilitating a meeting with the private sector.  We have put on the table an increase in the number of products that Belize wants to be covered by the Partial Scope Agreement and Guatemala undertook to review them.”


Gilbert Canton, an agronomist who oversees several farms, as well as this storage and processing facility, attests to the importance and need for the Partial Scope Agreement.


Gilbert Canton

“It’s very important.  Our company exists because of the Partial Scope Agreement.  If that wasn’t in place I don’t know that we would be here because Belize is going to produce this year about two million bags of corn.  About half of that is going to be used locally, primarily to grow chickens and pigs.  The other half goes to Guatemala.  We’re an export facility so all of our corn goes to Guatemala.  So if that Partial Scope Agreement didn’t exist, we would not exist.”


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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