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Apr 19, 2011

Local onions rotting on ground while G.O.B. imports onions from Holland

Close to a million pounds of onions are rotting in fields in northern districts. They are worth millions of dollars. Onion farmers invested heavily years ago to begin production of onions for the local market. Most of them got loans from the banks and credit unions but now that it is time to harvest the onions, they are told that the Belize Marketing Board is bringing in the onions from as far away as Holland. This means the farmers are out of pocket and want urgent help. News Five’s Jose Sanchez headed up north to Cristo Rey Village in Corozal and has this report.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Cane Farmers in Orange Walk and Corozal were encouraged by the government to diversify their crops. They began producing onions.  The Corozal Onion Producers Group has been organized for four years.  However, the onions that they have produced are now rotting on the ground because they say Marketing Board imported onions from Holland.

Raul Mai

Raul Mai, Secretary, Corozal Onion Producers Group

“We planted seventy acres of onions. And we calculated one point four million to one point five million pounds of onions. And we did it. But then the problem right now we have is the marketing. We have already lost two hundred thousand pounds right now because of marketing and we are asking the government or any department that has to say about this. And I believe in this case, we believe it is Belize Marketing Development Corporation. At the ground, we have a total of five hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds only here in Corozal.”

Amadeo Che

Amadeo Che, Former President, Corazal Agricultural Producers Association

“We have been damaged economically. So the banks they want their money back. So how are we gonna pay the banks when we have this great loss. At the end of the day, we see that the damage is even further in our homes. For example, we have kids going to high school and need to pay tuition fees. So if we can’t sell our onions right now and we have this much losses. Another problem it—this makes us more upset—six years ago, the government in power, they come preach to us saying you need to organize yourselves, come in groups—form cooperatives and association. That’s what they preach and even if we have a good association or cooperatives, at the end of the days, we become enemies of the government. We see it today. The secretary mentioned just before that he tried to call ministers, to have meetings with the C.E.O. and personnel from government, but we can’t see them.”

Santiago Che’s field of dreams has become a dream deferred. The hands of this Cristo Rey villager still search for the product of his sweat, but it is all gone.

Santiago Che

Santiago Che, Chairman, Corozal Onion Producers Group

“I am losing about forty thousand pounds of onion here in my field. I have a group of my family—four of us working here in this farm. I have my son and two grandsons here working and we share this with the family. We have about fifteen families to support here. I spent about nearly ten to twelve thousand dollars per acre and I planted six acres of onions. Imagine how much money I am spending per acre and then now the losses come here now. I have been selling my onions for fifteen dollars a sack for fifty pounds and that is not a business now. We are losing all the money. This money can go to my family, to the students that my colleague says. I have a daughter in Cuba I have to support her. Now I can’t do that. I owe the credit union. That’s why I invite him today so he can see all the losses I have—not because I don’t want to pay cause I produce onion—and now today they can see how the Minister of Agriculture is doing this today.”

Combined with onions in Orange Walk, it is estimated that about nine hundred thousand pounds are sitting, rotting in the fields.

Raul Mai

“We tried to communicate with them through Department of Agriculture in Corozal. We go there; we tell them we want to have a meeting with the minister. They always come and tell us that the minister can’t because he is out of the country or he has other matter to do. I called Mister Eugene Waight. I spoke with him once. He told that he was going to settle so we could have a meeting with the minister. I have already called at Belmopan, I’ve already sspoke to the secretary, I even left my number and I still can’t get a response from them.”

The other farmers from Xaibe, Patchakan, Chan Chen, Concepcion, San Roman and Little Belize all share the same story. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Later in the newscast, we’ll have a reaction from the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, the body that imports the Holland variety of onions.

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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24 Responses for “Local onions rotting on ground while G.O.B. imports onions from Holland”

  1. cg says:

    what a bloody disgrace….if people buy imported onions they should be shot! let those rot instead


    The PUP verbal communications between the people and the GOB of Belize was to formed cooperatives and associations to harvest crops, and make a profit. Years later the PUP is out of business, and onions are making the people cry for compensations of loss.

    Every aspects of Belize are in need of repairmen, which show very little knowledge of leadership in a country. These workers invented jobs for themselves and even so the GOB was still incapable of helping or investing time or money in these cooperatives. Importing onions to Holland would have been much more profits for Belize than to imports onions from Holland to Belize.

    Since this verbal agreement was made between the people and the PUP sometime ago, why didn’t the associations made it their business to make sure that the new government was also in agreement with their deal that the PUP negligently left behind? And why did the associations preferred to sit back and watched their onions rot instead of going to shops and selling their crops, etc?

  3. BZNinCALI says:

    Please explain to us how onions imported from Holland is cheaper than what we grow at home.

  4. Truth says:

    If we invest in our own think about the possibilities of our spending cuts and the money we can save…We dont need to import goods from Holland anymore, what the hell is wrong with the gob, they rather make outsiders millionaires rather than our own.These people deserve a shot, if the gov. doenst do anything about this issue then its not for the people…Screw the gov..then when these people try sell their locals products, crooked custom officers would want to charge them for contra-band…Belize gov. is over its head……U spend in Bze u build Bze…

  5. george alamilla says:

    This is the resaon that there so much poverty,crime,etc,because the people that are elected to take care of the country have no interest to enrich themselves.Look at all the ministers,CEO’s,their secretaries,after another government,they live lives of the rich because the only thing they did while in office is to get rich and to hell with the rest.This is never going to change until we all get rid of everything PUP and UDP and elect a complete third party and a national assembly.

  6. toseedand back says:

    The minister of agriculture has a daughter-in-law who has a brother (Clifford Sabala) living in holland. I bet you that he is the connection to the onion that is being imported from holland. Corruption by the minister .

  7. coralblack says:

    What a $hame $hame $hame!!!!!!!!! Like they say one man’s sorrows is another man’s joy.

  8. carlos says:

    This just shows the irresponsibility of the government , especially the minister of agriculture. They should know what Belize is producing and what is capable of being produce in our country. It is the duty of a government to know what we are producing and what needs to be imported. But as usual with this government, it is all politics instead of supporting our farmers regardless of which party they are.

  9. Belizean says:

    The Gov’t are a bunch of idiots and hypocits, the preach about buying in Belize and yet they leave our farmers produce to rot while they import from a rich country like Holland. Geez this has got to be the most idiotic and moronic desicion, I am convinced that the UDP has the most mediocre bunch of Politicians, Geez you could notice there incompetence when they speak,especially montero and perodomo. Why these farmers cannot have the oppurtunity to speak with the ministers, the excuse of them having other matters to deal with is a poor excuse because I hear nothing more serious occurring in the minister of Agric’s portfolio that requires more attention than what is occuring with these farmers. What a bunch of imcompetent morons, Its time for a change, If you agree with me let me hear an amen!

  10. Ocaso says:

    This story stinks of meddling by international institutions like the IMF and the WTO that force small developing countries like Belize to buy products from the international market that they would have otherwise been able to grow themselves. Of course these institutions will argue that if we make conditions at home more favourable for local farmers that we are being “protectionists”, but they never mention how the developed countries are really just protecting their own unfair trade advantages.
    I encourage everyone to watch a documentary called “Life and Debt in Jamaica” it reveals precisely how these institutions bully small, poor nations like Belize into becoming unnecessarily indebted to international lenders for exactly these kinds of reasons. Jamaican farmers had to throw away their milk while their government imported powdered milk. It’s not coincidence it’s the way the system was designed to work.

  11. MyLegacyB4MyPeople says:

    Exactly my question MADDYVANDIJK/DEREALIST why did they not harvest their onions when it was time to do so and make an attempt to sell them instead of having them rot in the field, it is understandable that we have a worthless government and worthless ministers. Would have like to know who was this minister that refused to meet with the farmers, never the less people need to take matters into their own hands and stop sitting around waiting for these incompetent and corrupted ministers to take action on their behalf, I am sure that someone is getting some payoff for allowing these onions to be imported from Holland, the marketing board really should not have the final word when it comes to importing a crop such as onion that can be produced locally since they are truly representing the GOB and taking orders from these corrupted politicians. Remember, My Legacy B 4 My People.

  12. chabelli says:


  13. Gustav says:

    This is a problem of a state-controlled economy. It defies the laws of economics. If GOB would stay out of business, not granting monopolies or trying to direct where people invest and work, the free market principles would give us greater prosperity, and quickly.

    Adam Smith wrote “Wealth of Nations” more than 200 years ago, and nobody yet has demonstrated a better approach.

    As long as GOB is given the power to pick winners and losers in business, there will be unfair and wasteful results. And Belizeans will get less for their hard-earned dollar than they should, Belizean children will live in greater poverty, and all the bad results will flow from that.

  14. O.Walk observer says:

    Shame on the government for it’s inability to deal with this matter and it’s unwillingness to do anything to help the onion producers. What Mr. Mai said on Channel seven is pure crap; the plight of the onion producers has been shown over repeatedly for over a month by CTV and been on programs on the local radio stations, there is no excuse that the Marketing Board was unaware of this situation well before it reached to the present proportion. They just do not care or maybe just dancing to the tune of the bigger bosses ie. polititians!

  15. javier solis says:

    Again, pointing fingers and simply not wanting to hear the facts. Did the growers association of the north advise their members not to plant so much onions? 2.2 million pounds already ripe and we consume a MAX of 90,000 lbs each week. It will take about 6 months to consume that amount, when these are already rotted. Last year there was a shortage at this time thats why the ministry allowed for the import of 100,000 lbs, or a week’s supply. There is no conspiracy about an in law in holland for crying out loud. You people are such fanatics.

  16. Jer says:

    People, I feel for the farmers, my father used to always say out of evil can come good. Can these onions be placed in cool storage? i think what happened to the farmers this time around happened already some time ago as well. Belize can be a producer of onions. We now seeing that as a fact, its no more guess work about us producing onions. What needs to be done is for the Marketing Board to get serious with planning and management. Marketing board, what you need to be now doing is looking for export markets and not importing onions. Our farmers can do it as well as the central americans who come here. Fact, onions are rotting in the fields. Can the government find some subsidy to help the farmers with the losses right now to give them that strength to replant again? In so doing we can stop importing onions and start exporting people. Mr. Barrow, please find some help for the farmers in this time. Give them courage to go back and plant again and have the marketing board plan effectively. Change the management from there if they cant handle this important task. Marketing board, you are a very important entity, you got to be working closely with the farmers now. I have always believed and said that our country can be producing so much food to the point of exporting. We got so much land, water is not scarce amongst others. Hey people lets turn this thing around with us only importing. Lets start producing and exporting. So much kids comin out of school and where will they find jobs if we not creating them. This could be the start people. We can produce here. Government find some way to help the farmers!! Lets start producing!!!! PEOPLE IN THESE ECONOMIC TIMES WILL STOP BUYING CARS,HOUSES ETC BUT WONT STOP BUYING FOOD.

  17. Disgusted! says:

    Somebody pleeeeease explain the logic to me because I am either !%$#ing stupid or I simply don’t get it. If the farmers are over-producing onions by bumper crops, then what’s the purpose of importing foreign onions??????? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever! But we all know wat the truth is…….the importers have a deal with someone at the marketing board and it’s all a shady hustle with complete disregard for the poor farmers. This onion debacle is enough to make me cry. No pun intended!

  18. David says:

    For people to know.
    Local onion producers did informed Marketing board not to buy any onions since thier produce would be ready earlier. So please Mai dont tell you were not informed. Local onion producers did infromed you, very early so dont come tell that the onions were already at sea.
    The fact od this belize going wrong is we the people, go vote and put crappy udp and crappy pup. this people are a bunch of blood suckers they are interested on thier pocket and give nothing to the peolpe. People we are to be served not potiticians serve themselfs. furthermore this political system is dictatorship, i understand they are doing oil exploration in corozal town (borders) and who knew, where is transparency ? people must agree first then politicians act.
    and please why is there senators (e.g. blades in corozal ) a drugdealer. PLease Belize what are you.

  19. Bengal says:

    B s.
    This is the kind of country we are living in.
    Farmers trying to make an honest living and here comes the government to knock the food out of their hands and mouth.
    Charity begins at home. Take care of local people first. This is what has killed Belize’s economic growth for centuries.
    Politicians do lucrative deals under the tables and get major kick backs.
    This is why the USA is still one of the best places to live because many dirty politicians like these end up doing federal time and in Belize they don’t even get a slap on the hand.

    This is the reason farmers in Afghanistan produce opium poppies to supply opium producers.
    This is the reason farmers in South America produce coco plants to supply the cocaine producers because these crops are more profitable and they don’t have to deal with corrupt politicians who are just looking out for themselves instead of the whole country.

    Remember in the 80 ‘s when Orange Walk used to be called ” Rambo Town “? When farmers used to plant marijuana.

    Then the Belize government with the help of the USA and the DEA fought against the herb.
    What happened next?
    They introduced, “The White Lady”", cocaine. That is mashing up the country.
    It is still turning our men and women into zombies and breaking families. Especially in the ghettos.

    Or should I say the “South Side”. That has become a popular term for media personalities as well as the few Belizeans who are living better than the majority.
    It has become a derogatory term like the term ” South Central ” that the media powerhouses have made an oath no to use when referring to crime ridden areas in Los Angeles, CA.

    Come on my people its April 20, 2011. Lets make up!

  20. Elgin Martinez says:

    Isn’t there some form of insurance to assist these hard working Belizean Citizens.Mr Barrow found money to support the criminal elements.Why not give the farmers all the monies that you’re using to support the gang members up north.

  21. Germain Garrett says:


  22. Swamp Dragon says:

    I think this may be the one time when I agree with every one writing on this site. How can this be happening? What a waste! I used to carry onion to San Pedro. Never enough Belize onion, so we get the Mexico cebolla. Now we have a harvest and it is just rotting. Shame

  23. Roy Yates says:

    I believe this situation can be resolve at te consumer level. Ask fellow Belizeans to bycot imported onions, if tey really feel salidarity for te Belize farmers. Cahrity begins at home. When Mr. Price was pusing for indipendence he had a slogan tat reminded that we keep our dollars at home by buying Belizeans products. Look at what he did for the fisheries by been able negotiate better price for lobster that was a give away before cooperatives was introduced. Its obvious that leaders of both Parties have no vision.

  24. ang says:

    Same thing happened/happenning with the cane, farmers diversify, learn from this, try to have alternative crops, form or use your leagues to independently find yourself int’l buyers through chambers of commerce that is the way to go, do not totally rely on gov’t you must track your commercialization, if they are opening borders for globalization look for buyers, try to compete, there is china, japan, etc.

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