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#368663 - 02/25/10 03:32 PM Eco-Green Granted Contract to Extract Xate
Marty Offline

Whenever it comes up the issue of Xate is always a troubling one. That’s because most times, the stories are about illegal harvesting of the ornamental leaf in Belize’s jungles by Guatemalans. Recently, the Government of Belize had agreed to issue a number of licenses but those also proved problematic because they provided Guatemalan harvesters to extract Xate with a license, and in so doing muddied the waters for authorities who could no longer make an easy differentiation between legitimate and illegitimate operators.

According to Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala Fred Martinez, it was frowned upon by the OAS and he told us that the Government of Belize had put a stop on all Xate concessions. And that’s why today we were taken off guard when the Government Press Office sent video of a fully outfitted Xate operation in western Belize. It’s called Eco-Green a subsidiary of a Miami based company that specializes in this. The processing factory is just outside Cayo and they had an official opening today – except that we weren’t invited to ask the tough questions – like who’s going to be harvesting the Xate? Specifically, are Guatemalans going to be harvesting it in Belize’s jungles?

That’s a worrying prospect – but a question for which we have no answers – as the Minister and the investor soft shoed through their interview with the Government Press Office.

Hon. Rene Montero, Minister of Agriculture
“Eco-Greens Company Limited will be involved strictly in the harvesting, packaging and the export of Xate leaves to the US and Europe. It is very important for this area, Cayo Central which I represent, and also to Belize. It has the potential of becoming a major foreign exchange earner and most importantly it will create jobs especially women, about 75% of the workers will be women. Right now we have 70 people employed, about 40 doing the harvesting and about 30 people here doing the packaging and selecting.

Government will be collecting revenue in terms of the royalty being paid to government and because previously 90% of the xate was being harvested illegally and taken over to our neighbouring countries. But now Belize will benefit from this vital natural resource that we have here. We will be able to harvest it and we the Belizeans will be able to benefit from it.”

Representative, Eco-Green
“We have been involved in this business in Guatemala and in Mexico for 31 years and we got involved with Belice because we found out that Belice had the product also and so now we are involved in Belice. Our job is to take the product from here, take it to the United States, repackage it to different customers in the United States and Europe.

This product is a very interesting product because it is product that is 100% organic. It is a product that it is not only a product that is very interesting and needed in the floral industry but it is also a product that is 100% natural.”

We note that the Minister spoke of employment for a hundred while the investor spoke about employment for one thousand. The company is named Eco-Green.

7NEWS


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#368794 - 02/26/10 03:43 PM Re: Eco-Green Granted Contract to Extract Xate [Re: Marty]
Barbara K Offline
How quickly does it grow back?
_________________________
www.barbsbelize.com

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#368800 - 02/26/10 04:09 PM Re: Eco-Green Granted Contract to Extract Xate [Re: Barbara K]
Marty Offline

Who is benefiting from the Xate contract?

leaf workersTurning to the controversial Xate trade; they are the leaves from Three Chamaedorea species of palm tree. The leaves are highly valuable in Europe and the United States sought after because of their lovely appearance in floral arrangements. The palms harvested primarily in Mexico and Guatemala; and to poor peasants who earn up to five U.S. dollars a day, they are literally money to pick up off forest floors. In 2007 alone, over four hundred million stems of xate were exported to the U.S. and Europe. But overharvesting in Guatemala has resulted in Xateros illegally crossing into Belize’s Chiquibul National Park. The incursions have been a particular irritant so why has the Ministry of Agriculture allowed a foreign company, Eco-Green, to set up a Xate operation in the Cayo district? The media was not invited to Wednesday’s launch, and it was very difficult to get hold of the government press office’s recording of the event. When we finally got a copy today, the recording raised more questions than answers. It is not known if any locals share a partnership in the company but word to News Five is that a Cayo businessman was given permits and accompanying licenses to harvest xate. But just prior to Eco-Green’s appearance, the businessman’s license was cancelled and local interests close to one minister and an area representative were given the green light to invest in the new business venture.

Rene Montero, Minister of Agriculture

Rene Montero

Rene Montero

“Eco-Greens Company Limited will be involved strictly in the harvesting, packaging and the export of Xate leaves to the U.S. and Europe. It’s very important for this area, Cayo Central which I represent, and also to Belize because it has the potential of becoming a major foreign exchange earner and most importantly it will create jobs, especially women living in this area. We see this industry as growing and we see it as a great, great industry for Belize, similar to the citrus, the sugar and bananas. It can grow as long as we practice sound management practices, sustainable management practices. I think that we can sustain it so it can be a major income earner for Belize.”

Carlos Rodriguez, President, Universal Greens, USA

“We have been involved in this business in Guatemala and in Mexico for thirty-one years and we got involved with Belice because we found out that Belice had the product also and so now we are involved in Belice. It is also a product that is one hundred percent natural. As you can see behind us, the girls have no machinery; it’s all natural. They pack it, we roll it in paper and we ship it to the United States. In the United States we put it in water and we package it to different customers for different parts of the country and Europe.”

Rene Montero

“We always to try to see if we get employment for women and you know that this industry will mainly, about seventy-five percent of the workers will be women. Right now we have about seventy people employed, about forty doing the harvesting and about thirty people here doing the packaging and selecting, getting ready the leaf for export.”

Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos Rodriguez

Carlos Rodriguez

“We will spend approximately two million U.S. dollars in advertising and the restructure and the teaching of the people of how to process the product, package it, and send it abroad. We will employ in Belize around a thousand employees in Belize alone.”

Rene Montero

“Government will be collecting revenue in terms of the royalty being paid to government and because previously all the Xate—about ninety percent of the Xate used to be harvested illegally and taken over to our neighboring countries. But now Belize will benefit from this vital natural resource that we have here. We will be able to harvest it and we will as Belizeans will be able to benefit from it.”

It is said that even up to a thousand people will be employed, so the question that follows is who gets the job; Guatemalans? News Five attempted to reach Montero today but we were told he was unavailable.

News 5

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#369739 - 03/06/10 04:19 PM Re: Eco-Green Granted Contract to Extract Xate [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Agriculture Minister Defends Xate Concession

On February 24th we told you about the surprise opening of the Eco Green’s Xate packaging factory in Red Bank Village just outside Santa Elena, Cayo. We say surprise because we thought that the granting of concessions for Xate extraction in Belize had been discontinued. That was the recommendation of the OAS after it became apparent that Belize’s effort to regularize Xate extraction by taxing it – was only enabling Guatemalan Xateros to legally come into Belize – thus blurring the lines between legal and illegal extraction and encouraging incursions into Belize. So who is extracting the Xate for the government-supported Eco-Green’s? That’s what we asked the Minister of Agriculture today.

Jim McFadzean,
“Our sources tell us there are Guatemalan xateros that are harvesting xate on behalf of Eco-Green Limited from our own Belizean forests. Is there any truth to that?”

Hon. Rene Montero, Minister of Agriculture
“I think the question you should be asking me is who is benefiting from the harvesting of xate. This is a new company, Eco-Green established in Cayo for the harvesting and packaging and export of Xate to foreign countries like the USA and Europe. Right now what I know for sure is that they employ single mothers. Look at the major industries that are bringing in foreign exchange; banana, citrus, and sugar. Look who is being employed. It is foreign labour. As far as I am concerned we should be looking at the benefit this new industry is bringing to the country. It is creating employment and it will generate foreign exchange and that is something that never used to happen before, it was harvested illegally by Guatemalans. This company is doing it legally under the supervision of the Department, under the supervision of the NGOs. We are working together to ensure that Belize benefits from its own natural resources.

Look at the major benefits that Belizeans will get from this industry in terms of employment, foreign exchange. As I said earlier 90% or 80% of the xate used to be harvested and taken across illegally. Now a local company, a local company owned by Belizeans will be harvesting the xate for the benefit of Belizeans.”

Jim McFadzean,
“At least a significant of the labour force harvesting the xate are Guatemalan nationals. Do they have permission to harvest xate from our local Belizean forest?”

Hon. Rene Montero,
“Well Jim I am not aware that a major portion of Guatemalans are harvesting xate then they must have a work permit.”

Critics of state sanctioned Xate extraction would say that unlike Bananas Xate grows in the wild and abundantly so in protected forest areas while Bananas grow on farms. Those critics would add that the idea that the chronically under-staffed and under-resourced forestry department can supervise commercial Xate extraction is at best an illusion and at worst, delusional.

Channel 7

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