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#405653 - 04/20/11 09:50 AM Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports
Marty Offline

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.

#405658 - 04/20/11 09:55 AM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Local Onion Producers Say Marketing Board Is Underselling Them

Belize consumes an estimated ninety thousand pounds of onion per week. But right now it might be a little more because today when we checked at the Queen Square market, onions were selling for one dollar a pound and only 20 dollars for a fifty pound bag. For those who are not regular shoppers, that's dirt cheap!

And the reason for that is because there are too many onions on the market! As a consequence, local producers are hurting; they are selling below their cost of production just to get the onions off their hands before they spoil.

Many of those farmers are blaming the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, widely known as the marketing board.

You see, the marketing board imported sixty five thousand pounds of onions from Holland just as the local onions from Corozal and Orange walk were coming in for harvest.

The Holland onions are cheaper, smaller and last longer. And now the local producers say that the presence of this imported product on the market has made it impossible for them to sell at a fair price.

So the marketing board is to blame. Or is it? The Manager Roque Mai today told us that in fact they do have the Holland onion, but they are in storage, spoiling as we speak - so that the local product can get some protection. Yet, the local producers' onions are also spoiling! So who's to blame? We tried to figure it out:

Roque Mai, Managing Director of BMDC
"The onions that came in on the first week of February, that would have finished about the week after or the 15th of February - exact time for the local onion to come in hand - it's just a switch. You turn on one switch imported, and then you turn another switch for the local; That's the calendar. But what happened is that the farmers planted early, and they started to harvest in Mid-January when the first production came in. So by the end of January, there was already an excess of onion, and we already had the onion on it's way sailing. So we couldn't return them backl; the shipment is already on the sea. We had no options and the onions arrived. We had a meeting with the onion association, and we purchased 129 bags of 50 pounds at 45 dollars. In the next day, the onion, still in the warehouse in Orange Walk, hadn't arrived in Belize City for distribution, when the price was set at $30."

Jules Vasquez
"Where? Who is selling it for $30?"

Roque Mai
"The farmers."

Jules Vasquez
"The same people who-"

Roque Mai
"Well it's a lot of them. It's being said that we are selling at $15 and $10 a bag. Just yesterday - today April 19- we sold 7 sacks of onions at $20. This is the receipt to prove it; We are not selling at 15. If the farmers are selling at $20, we are selling at $20; if they're selling tomorrow at $15, we'll go at $15."

Jules Vasquez
"However, shouldn't you do the other thing. Shouldn't You say, 'You know what, we have to help the local man. We'll stop selling the Holand onions until the local supply is exhausted.' Shouldn't you, in the interest of the small man, do that?"

Roque Mai
"Jules, like I've said, the last we have sold Holland onions is yesterday; for about two week we haven't sold them."

Jules Vasquez
"So but, your onions are spoilt; the local producers' onions are spoil. Are we in a glut situation?"

Roque Mai
"Alright, let me explain to you now, what happens is that everybody plants onion. Last month the records mentioned about a million pounds of onion in harvest. Where in the world, Belizeans can consume, at 90,000 a week times 4?"

Jules Vasquez
"That's a third of a million, 360,000."

Roque Mai
"How much months will it take us to consume a million pounds of onion?"

Jules Vasquez
"And is that how much we have?"

Roque Mai
"We have more harvesting right now. Everyday they're harvesting."

Jules Vasquez
"So you're saying that the market is over-supplied right now."

Roque Mai
"Over-supplied and our farmers planted too much. If I decided today, through technical advice - If i said today we write off the onions. Would you come to me again criticizm next week, saying, 'Mr. Mai, farmers are complaining that they can't sell their onions. Who do they go to?' And this will happen, believe you me. We write off these onions, Jules, stop selling and destroy our onions. Tomorrow they would have problems selling onions; it's too much onions planted in this country, too much onions."

The marketing board has 998 bags of the Holland Onions stored in Orange Walk and 857 bags stored in Santa Elena - both sets will probably end up spoiling and have to be discarded.

As for the local producers, their harvest is set to produce a reported two million pounds - and a large portion of that may also end up spoiling.

For what it's worth, when we checked at the City market today, only local onions were available.

Channel 7

#405817 - 04/21/11 12:00 PM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Be patriot and makes lots of escabeche, french onion soup, etc.
Belize based travel specialist

#405858 - 04/21/11 08:30 PM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
ScubaLdy Offline
This may be a stupid question but why don't the Belize farms sell their onions abroad?
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

#405881 - 04/21/11 11:19 PM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: ScubaLdy]
SnoopysMom Offline
Have to beg the question...Why can't the onions be frozen / dried / dehydrated / canned for later use? Similar products are imported for sale in San Pedro in the groceries as we speak.

BTW: where are the Idaho potatoes (Belize can't seem to come close in this area!)?

#406375 - 04/28/11 09:25 AM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Onion Producers in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts continue to face difficulties in selling their produce and are losing thousands of dollars worth of investments. Farmers claim that the market was over saturated with onions after the Belize Marketing and Development Cooperation imported onions from Holland around the same time they began their harvests in the earlier part of this year. The BMDC however has argued that they have simply followed a calendar that coincides with the farmers’ harvest. Managing Director, Roque Mai adds that this year, one contributing factor to the problem is that farmers began harvesting their crop earlier than scheduled. And while farmers are losing almost their entire crop this year, Mai says the BMDC is also losing thousands of dollars worth of imported onions.

Roque Mai, Managing Director, BMDC

“This week I chose to write off, destroy onions from the warehouse in Orange Walk. We are destroying about 46,500 pounds of onions which we have in stock from mid February to try and give a way to farmers to sell their product. Still doing that, they have problems. The critics are saying because of BMDC they can’t sell their onions, but we are going to destroy the onions before Friday and we are going to lose between $30 to $35,000.00.”

Mai says that their imported onions are rotting while some have started sprouting making them not suitable for consumption. Mai says they may also have to destroy another forty-five thousand pounds of onions in storage at Santa Elena. In an effort to avoid a similar situation for the next crop, Mai says they are working closely with the agriculture department to work out a better system with farmers.


#406377 - 04/28/11 09:28 AM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Marketing Board’s Dutch onions are going up in smoke

Last week we reported on the onion crisis in the two northern districts. Thousands of acres of onion fields, some nine hundred thousand pounds of the vegetable are rotting and farmers who invested substantially are at breaking point. Their financial losses are tremendous and many who turned to lending institutions are now facing burdensome loan payments. They have been having a hard time selling the onions because as we told you last week, the Belize Marketing Development Corporation, also known as Marketing Board, in February imported about sixty five thousand pounds from Holland which are being warehoused in substandard facilities in Orange Walk and Santa Elena. But the Dutch onions have also been spoiling and earlier this week, more than forty six thousand pounds stored in Orange Walk were destroyed, it’s a loss of up to thirty-five thousand dollars. There is also word that another forty five thousand pounds of the Dutch onions in a warehouse in Santa Elena, will similarly be destroyed. The glut brought down the price of onions for the consumers, but has resulted in the heavy losses to the farmers and now the BMDC. So what went wrong? The farmers say that BMDC imported onions just as they were about to harvest while the marketing board says the farmers harvested earlier than scheduled. If that sounds confusing, then get this; more onions will have to be imported later in the year because of the current spoilage.

Channel 5

#406663 - 05/01/11 09:55 AM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Throwing Away Onions By the Bushel

Ten days ago we told you about the onion situation - where local farmers can't sell their onions, and they're blaming the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation as the local onions rot.

And, at the same time, the BMDC - which imported onions from Holland - also had those onions in storage, rotting, in an effort to protect the local farmer.

In the end, both sides lost onions and money. Today we saw that first hand as the BMDC was forced to discard 957 sacks of onions that it had stored at its warehouse in Orange Walk town.

It was an ugly sight: not only because what was once valuable food was being wasted, but also because the onions were hideously rotten - and the place reeked!.

Managing Director of the BMDC Roque Mai told us it pains him too:…

Roque Mai, Managing Director of the BMDC
"They are already disposing the onions and we are going to get rid of them, we throw them at the municipality and the town council as well as the garbage dumps. With this in mind doing this - it's a pity, we are losing about 46,500 pounds of onions which is valued at $35,000 Belize dollars. Today is a very big hit to the cooperation losing that kind of money and the farmers are losing as well but when you look at it hopeful next week we won't hear the cries again that BMDC is the cause for the farmers that can't sell their produce. It's a pity all those onions we are destroying, it's quite not healthy in this environment because we were holding on to it and now we are destroying it."

Jules Vasquez
"It's a terrible waste as well."

Roque Mai, Managing Director of the BMDC
"It's a terrible waste Jules, a lot of Belizeans could have consume this product but the truth is that I sympathize with the farmers."

Jules Vasquez
"But at the same time Mr. Mai you are only destroying 2,000 sacks; you had another 3,000 sacks which you did sell on the market."

Roque Mai, Managing Director of the BMDC
"It's not selling, it's moving slowly, if the shops request more we would deliver. It's going slow and every day that goes by they are spoiling."

Jules Vasquez
"If I were the Chairman of the board of directors I would say this is your fault. This is your loss Mr. Mai. You've manage to import incompetently and so we have to throw away tens of thousands of dollars' worth of onions."

Roque Mai, Managing Director of the BMDC "It's not my fault; I wouldn't take that Jules as what you are saying. We are human beings, we do errors and we didn't think that that would have happen. On one part we are looking at a loss but really the truth is that we could have sold this, we could have push it but it would have cause more chaos to the farmers. We choose not to do that. This could have been sold out. We could have driven to all the villages and shops and sell it, but we choose to hold it back to give way for the farmers to sell their produce. The early harvest in January affected us, if they would have at least waited until mid- February we wouldn't have been in this trouble. Everything could have been consumed because these 65,000 pounds of onion in one container which is 1,300 bags - that is consume in less than a week."

There are another nine hundred plus sacks stored in Cayo and it's likely that those will also have to be thrown away. And while the debacle of wastage and over-production should teach everyone a lesson, Mai also had a few cautionary tales for consumers - who he says should refrain from buying those pink onions:

Roque Mai, Managing Director of the BMDC
"I would like to advise Belizeans as well that if they see the mauve color onions - those are contraband onion, and also the white onions as well. Some farmers do plant white onions but not much to be consume by the entire country. In San Ignacio we have white onions and that comes from Mexico, those are contraband. Most farmers plant yellow onions. Mauve or red onions are contraband, you can find it at the market and the price is very high and also one other thing I would like to advise the public is that the price on onion should be at $0.75 per pound. i understand they are selling at the market for $1 - $1.50. That's a rip off. Looking at it it is very ridiculous Jules. If you pay $1.50 for a pound of onion you are getting chance, you are getting highway robbery."

Channel 7

#406889 - 05/04/11 09:37 AM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


Minister of Agriculture Rene Montero says government will not leave onion farmers in the north out in the cold. Close to a million pounds of onions were left to rot in the field because of an over saturation of the local market due largely to the government’s importation of the vegetable from Holland. In an interview with Love News done during the just concluded National Agriculture and Trade Show in Belmopan, Minister Montero said help is on the way for the farmers who lost thousands of dollars in investment when the onions could not be sold locally. But Montero says changes have to be made first so that what happened this year will repeat itself.

Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture

“We are committing ourselves that next year we are going to take the bull by the horn and work with all stakeholders even involving the credit people, the institutions that offer credit so that they do not lend to the farmers unless they plant at a certain time, they cannot plant at the same time otherwise this thing will be repeated on a cycle, every year we will have the same thing. It is the same thing with vegetables, we encourage farmers not to plant tomatoes at the same time because when there is a bumper crop the prices go down, it is good for the consumer but the farmer does not make any money. That is one of the biggest challenge for us to insist that the farmers plant staggered because the market for onions is very small here in Belize and the technology for storage is not here yet, we don’t have it. The only country that has the technology for storage is Holland. We will do our best to see how we will help them to recover that loss. We will probably help them in terms of, help them with technical assistance, help them to prepare their lands, offer them seeds, and offer them fertilizers so we are going to work with them, we will not leave them by themselves. We will go there and offer what we can offer and also give them their resources so they can plant again because we want to be self sufficient in onions we want to reduce importation.’

Montero says that Belize currently has the potential to supply only twenty five percent of the local demand for onion, something which he says better policies and practices should improve on in the coming months. Meanwhile, rice farmers in the south have also been given an assurance that the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation will be buying all the rice they produce this year.

Rene Montero – Minister of Agriculture

“When we came into office 2008 the farmers were producing just 2 million pounds of rice and again we assist them with land preparation, with fertilizers, better seeds, and better training and now the farmers are producing up to about 7 to 8 million pounds of paddy. The Government is committed to buy all the rice that the farmers produce. We are committed to that. Parallel to that we are seeking markets. Right now we are negotiating with Taiwan, we are negotiating with El Salvador and trying to see if we can form a partial scope agreement like we did with Guatemala so that we will be able to export our rice to El Salvador. Right now we are not competitive because we have to pay a duty but once we sign this partial scope agreement they won’t charge us any duty and then we will be competitive. I want to tell the farmers to rest assured that we are committed to buy all the rice they produce.”


#406943 - 05/04/11 07:57 PM Re: Local onions rotting on ground, G.O.B. imports [Re: Marty]
SFJeff Offline
Time for Marie Sharps or someone to pickle them w/ carrots and habanero. Virtually EVERY rice & beans shack in the country makes such... would be a new "product" for tourists to take home. When life hands you lemons...

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