Belize’s cattle ranchers hope for a boost, appeal for law enforcement help against rustling

Belizean livestock producers are pressing ahead with plans to expand their export market to Mexico, adding to the 5,000 heads of cattle already exported to Guatemala each year. Most of the cattle Belize produces is for the local market—a total of roughly 6,000 heads a year.

With the impending expansion of exports to Mexico, revenues from the sector could exceed the $10 million mark that the industry is approaching.

The production figures were supplied to us by Harry Parham, Chief Executive Officer of the Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA), based in Belmopan.

Parham also spoke with us about one of the challenges the industry is facing—losses due to cattle rustling and predation by jaguars.

He told us that jaguars eat an estimated 50 heads each year and cattle thieves make off with about 350 annually. The calculated loss is over $300,000 each year.

Law enforcement is a problem, because although the police do try, said Parham, authorities have a hard time getting convictions, primarily due to lack of evidence to effectively prosecute. This, in turn, discourages farmers from reporting losses, Parham added.

The area most affected by rustling, the association members say, is the Belize River Valley area. Cristo Rey farmers have reported losses due to jaguar predation. Other areas that have reported losses include Spanish Lookout and Calla Creek.

Parham said that the farmers really need more help in law enforcement to protect their cattle from theft.

The farmers also need help getting affordable financing to improve their farms, he added.

Financing was one of the concerns raised by John Carr, chairman of BLPA, at the recent business forum convened by the Office of the Prime Minister. Delays in expanding to the Mexican market was also a point of major concern raised, and the Prime Minister strongly urged government officials overseeing the industry to expedite the processes to facilitate the expansion of the export market.

Today, board member Peter Dueck, a cattle rancher from Spanish Lookout, told our newspaper that things are progressing in the effort to tap into the Mexican market, and they are awaiting finalization from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Belize’s industry is still 90% organic, with bovine growth hormones used by just a couple farms for export to Guatemala, Parham indicated. Consequently, dairy products, such as milk and cheese from these sources, aren’t tainted with these growth hormones, he explained.

Parham said that Belize’s national herd is 95,000 heads of cattle.