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Jun 2, 2008

Loss of Blue Creek rice crop means trouble ahead

Story PictureAs bad as the human and economic loss was in the south, the damage caused to crops in the north may have even further reaching effects on Belizeans. News Five’s Stewart Krohn spoke by phone to rice farmer Peter Dyck of Blue Creek. His company—Hillbank Agricultural—and others in the area, grow the vast majority of the nation’s vital rice crop. Dyck reports that the situation is nothing short of a disaster.

Peter Dyck, Rice Farmer, Blue Creek
“We have been experiencing rain from about Wednesday of last week already. There was roughly about seven hundred and sixty-five acres ready to harvest and all of that rice has been destroyed by the continuous rainfall. That rice looks like it will not be harvestable because it has been ruined from the moisture. We still have substantial acres of rice in the field that are not ready to harvest and the way things look now we do not have extremely heavy flooding. We do have flooding, but it’s not heavy yet. Our flooding usually comes a few days later after the rain has fallen so the Rio Bravo basin is large and it takes several days for the water to reach our areas. We are anticipating on the rest of the rice that’s in the paddy fields will possibly be destroyed because of flooding that is coming our way which we cannot prevent.”

Stewart Krohn
“Now Peter, even prior to these rains, there was a bit of a problem with rice over pricing and things like that. In addition to that now, with this destruction of much of the rice crop, are we now facing the prospect of actual rice shortages in the country down the line?”

Peter Dyck
“I think we have enough rice in stock of what has just been harvested prior to the rains and what was in stock from the previous crop. Collectively, between the mills here we should have roughly about three months supply of rice and then we’ll be looking at a shortage of rice.”

Stewart Krohn
“So when you talk about the rice that’s in the fields now, probably being destroyed by the floods that are yet to come, does that mean the entire rice crop that’s in the ground now at Blue Creek is going to be destroyed?”

Peter Dyck
“Yes, yes that’s the way … from our past experience, that’s what we’re expecting.”

Stewart Krohn
“What are we looking at in terms of financial loss? What would that amount to, would you estimate?”

Peter Dyck
“Millions, millions of dollars.”

Stewart Krohn
“How do you go about recovering from that peter? You just wait till the weather dries, plough it under and plant it again?”

Peter Dyck
“Well, I’m not sure if there will be any replanting of fields if farmers will not be getting assistance in some way or another. All the farmers have been maxing out their credit lines at banks because of the high cost of fertilizer and fuel over the last four or five months. I am just not certain if there will be any replanting of fields when the losses are settled because we alone in our farm of one thousand, sixty fifty acres, we would have harvested two hundred and twenty acres of it and it looks all the rest is gonna be a loss. When you borrow money to put crop like that into the ground you’re looking at kinda saving the shirt on your back by cleaning up with the banks all you can.”

Stewart Krohn
“So it looks like it’s gonna be financial disaster for the farmers and not much rice on the shelf for local consumers.”

Peter Dyck
“That’s the way it looks now, yes.”

Even before the flooding, Blue Creek producers had been holding back on releasing their stocks of rice pending government approval of a raise in the price paid to farmers to a dollar-fifteen per pound. Now, it is not certain whether that price will be acceptable to the growers who face such large financial losses. At the same time, there have been reliable reports from Belize City and elsewhere that unscrupulous grocers have been selling rice for as much as two dollars per pound.


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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