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#510485 - 01/08/16 05:11 AM The Carrots Crisis
Marty Offline
For the past 5 weeks we have been following the case of importer Jack Charles and his Guyanese Rice that customs now wants to destroy - basically so that they can protect local rice producers. Today we look at quite the opposite scenario. In the north Carrot producers are crying out because their carrots are being under-sold by carrots imported from Mexico. Now, there's no protection for them - and some 10 acres of carrots worth $20 thousand dollars is rotting in the field. Today the media was invited to a press brief on the farms of San Carlos in Orange Walk where farmer Max Hernandez explained our colleagues at CTV3 the plight of the San Carlos Carrot farmers. Here is what Hernandez told them.

Max Hernandez, San Carlos Community
"The problem here in San Carlos is that we started the cultivation of carrots some years ago and the problem now is that there is no market. We've given a report to the Ministry of Agriculture saying that we start the harvest on the 15th December each year. But this year since the start of the season, we haven't sold a thing. Now up to 70% of the crop has gone bad due to the fact that they are importing carrots and they are giving license to import carrots. This is affecting us."

Now Mexican imported carrots are not that much cheaper than the local carrots, in fact we understand the prices are almost the same - while, the imported carrots are more attractive. However, the market is so saturated with imported carrots that no one wants to buy from the local producers of San Carlos. We understand that the farmers were told that the importation of carrots would stop by the 15th of December, however as far as they are concerned one person is still licensed to import Mexican carrots. The story was late coming in, and we'll have more on this tomorrow.

Channel 7

Ministry of Agriculture Statement on Carrot Producers Situation

The importation of fresh vegetables is necessary to supplement domestic production as Belize does not have sufficient year round production. Importation is usually carefully timed to avoid oversupply or shortage of produce. There are periods when both imported and domestic products are on the market, usually at the start of or at the end of harvest. This period is most difficult to manage as a third factor -illegal contraband -imports also affect supply. This system of balanced importation is managed within the Ministry of Agriculture by the Chief Agriculture Officer and the Director of Extension.

The current problem being experienced by the carrot producers in San Carlos, Orange Walk District is being thoroughly examined to determine the cause, the impact and corrective measures necessary.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development sincerely regrets any loss of production, especially to small farmers.

#510509 - 01/09/16 05:09 AM Re: The Carrots Crisis [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

San Carlos Carrots Crisis: Ministry Says It Wants To Help

Yesterday we gave you a snippet of the expedition to the farms of San Carlos Village where trouble is brewing for carrot farmers. Today the Ministry of Agriculture sent out a release saying that the matter is being thoroughly examined to determine the best course of action. We spoke to the Chief Agriculture officer via phone who explained the Ministry's position in further detail. But before we get into that interview we will revisit the farmers' side of the story. According to the farmers of San Carlos, Orange Walk, some $30 thousand dollars' worth of carrots currently sit on their farms. Out of this some $20 thousand dollars' worth of these carrots are already going bad. This is because of the local market is saturated with carrots - and they say the culprit is the importation of legal and illegal carrots.

Max Hernandez - San Carlos Farmer
"What we understand right now is that they have already stopped importing but those who are at the top have given license to one person who is now affecting us. He is monopolizing all the importation including carrots, and now our one is left here."

Norberto Santos - Farmer
"Well honestly, it's greatly affecting us because like my colleague Max said we owe in credit union and DFC. We are working with a Mennonite from shipyard who gives us pesticides, but right now the Mennonite doesn't want to give us more. I don't know what's going to happen because I already lost half an acre of carrots. I couldn't sell anything."

"How many acres did you have?"

Norberto Santos - Farmer
"I only had half an acre, and I already lost everything. I couldn't even sell one little sack."

Max Hernandez Jr. - Farmer
"We have approximately one acre of carrots where we haven't sold not even one sack. Meanwhile about 90% of the carrots is already going bad. We are asking the Ministry of Agriculture to have a conscious and to support us in at the very least closing the license for the importation of carrots and to control the contrabanding of carrots so that we can have a better living."

Max Hernandez - San Carlos Farmer
"If the Ministry of Agriculture is saying that we need to diversify and not just think in cane, then where is the support? We demand support because we have kids to maintain."

Keylie Hernandez - Daughter of Farmer
"I am here to ask the Honorable Gaspar Vega to help all the farmers sell all their vegetables because if we can't sell it how will we eat, how will we get dressed? I ask that Gaspar Vega have a heart because if we don't sell, we won't eat, and we won't be able to go to school."

Now because of the local farmer's inability to supply local demand for carrots year-round, the Government issues license to import carrots from Mexico. According to the Chief Agriculture Officer, Roberto Harrison, the local supply is at an estimated 35 thousand pounds per week while the local demand is at a 42 thousand pounds per week. Harrison affirms that the Ministry has done all it can to create a smooth phasing out of imported carrots and so is puzzled why farmers in the north are faced with this dilemma.

Robert Harrion - Chief Agriculture Officer
"We did in fact issue 2 small permits for the importation to offset that weekly demand. Small, in that it wouldn't have in anyway affected the local supply coming in, so that it muse me and why they would not be able to sell their local supply is not being sold in the local market. We know that we have been able to save in the local production quite well while phasing out almost completely licenses for the importation of carrots."

"What can the ministry do at this time to intervene?"

Robert Harrion - Chief Agriculture Officer
"As I said, we are monitoring it because it seems that there is an oversupply. That means that there could be an increase in the contraband of carrots in this case. We do have now the potatoes crop has started to come in another week, 2 weeks followed by onion. So, we are monitoring these things very closely from the local productions standpoint and from the import standpoint. I've visited the market this morning and there seems to be quite a bit of local carrots in the market place now."

The Ministry says that it regrets any loss of production, especially to small farmers. Harrison concedes that more can be done in the area of communication with the small farmers and on the fight against contraband products. We will keep monitoring this situation.

Channel 7

Contrabandistas blamed for carrot crisis

Orange Walk carrot producers stand to lose tens of thousands of dollars because their locally grown produce is being boxed out of the market by imported carrots, which have flooded stalls and stores around the country, allegedly due to oversupply caused by contrabandistas.

Roberto Harrison, Chief Agriculture Officer, who conceded that there could be an increase in contraband carrots on the Belize market, told our newspaper that the last permit for the importation of carrots was given in the latter part of December—but that was only for 3,000 pounds of carrots and so there should not be an oversupply of imported carrots on the market.

Media reports indicate that $30,000 worth of carrots could be lost and two-thirds ($20,000 worth) is already rotting in the fields.

CTV3 in Orange Walk reported last week that 15 farmers of San Carlos Village, Orange Walk District, have been unable to sell their carrots. According to 7News, 10 acres of carrots worth $20,000 dollars are wasting in the fields.

Ignacio Perez, a farmer of San Carlos, told Amandala that the local carrots are sold at a wholesale price of $25 to $30 for the 50-pound sack, and he was only able to sell 20 of his 50 sacks.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, which issued a press release last week, assured the public that, “The current problem… is being thoroughly examined to determine the cause, the impact and corrective measures necessary.”

The release went on to say that the “importation of fresh vegetables” is vital in order to “supplement” the locally produced carrots, since the local carrots are seasonal.

Harrison informed us that the season commences mid-December and ends in March. It is only outside of this period that carrots are to be imported.

The Government says that carrots are imported in a strategic way to ensure that there is neither scarcity nor saturation on the local market.

It went on to say that typically, at the beginning or end of the harvest, local, imported and contraband carrots can be found on the local market, which adds to the difficulty of managing the supply.

The Ministry ended by apologizing for “any loss of production, especially to small farmers.”

No indication was given to us whether the illegally imported carrots would be confiscated.


#510526 - 01/09/16 06:38 AM Re: The Carrots Crisis [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Carrots recipes?
Belize based travel specialist

#510531 - 01/09/16 09:08 AM Re: The Carrots Crisis [Re: Marty]
Diane Campbell Offline
Best raw carrot salad recipe ever.
Use potato peeler to make ribbon strips of raw carrot.
Heat corn oil, add black or brown mustard seeds. Cook on high heat until all the seeds pop.
Pour oil and seeds on carrots.
Add pinch of salt if you wish.
Serve warm.

That's all you do ..... And the flavor is amazing.

PS - it must be corn oil. No other oil will give you the flavor you need for this dish.

Edited by Diane Campbell (01/09/16 10:56 AM)
Edit Reason: clarification on ingredients

#510532 - 01/09/16 10:31 AM Re: The Carrots Crisis [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
Belize based travel specialist

#510723 - 01/16/16 04:54 AM Re: The Carrots Crisis [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

The Carrots Concern

Market vendors say the cancelled permits for imported vegetables is costing them. As you heard last night the vendors are now dealing with the scarce supply and high price of local vegetables and it looks like it's getting worse. Today one of the market vendors Maria Cowo told us it seems that permits will be cancelled for imported potatoes, broccoli and lettuce. It's a major blow for their business especially today which is market day. Cowo further explained how this veggie situation is affecting them.

Maria Cowo - Market Vendor
"Today the situation is, well we got some carrots if I told you the price for the carrots we got today, it was 60 dollars for the sack, and local carrots more expensive than the Mexican one because the Mexican one is 45.50 dollars and that is the best carrots. the cabbage if you look, there is no cabbage in the market because the local one, yesterday they come at 135 dollars for the sack and it doesn't bring 100 pounds and if you look it has worms and its black so it's not so good. The lettuce, we got a little too. I don't understand why, if they cut the license, why the minister doesn't said someone to check the market and see what the problem is. If we have enough or if they cut some of the licenses. It doesn't have to be everything and right now some people are saying that there are people who don't have licenses to come in Monday. It looks like they are cutting the licenses for the broccoli, cauliflower and potato now. Now it's not an issue for the carrots, lettuce, celery and cabbage. Now it's potato, broccoli and cauliflower which is the issue now."

Courtney Weatherburne
"So you all have the issue with scarcity and price?"

Maria Cowo - Market Vendor
"And price, exactly. When we tell the people its 1.50 dollars for the pound of local cabbage people would get angry. They don't buy it. It's really turning into a big scarce of things because this is going too far. The cabbage, we bought it yesterday morning for 90 dollars. We sold it for 1.25 a pound but when it was yesterday evening, it was sold for 130, 135 dollars for the sack. We can't afford that. It would not make a profit."

Courtney Weatherburne
"Today being market day this is when you all get most of your customers. How did today went? I guess business did not went so well."

Maria Cowo - Market Vendor
"No, it didn't go so well because we don't have the things to supply to our customers. We got people who supply to San Pedro. We have people from restaurants here in Belize City. We couldn't supply things because we don't have it."

Courtney Weatherburne
"What do you recommend, you told me earlier this morning that you all don't mind at least making them provide maybe some of the local and..."

Maria Cowo - Market Vendor
"Exactly, some of the local and the Mexican ones. It doesn't have to be a lot because we have to understand that the local people have to eat too and they have to sell their things because if they don't sell it, it will spoil but the minister has to see. It has to balance a 50/50."

Cowo suggested that the Ministry of Agriculture allow the importation of some vegetables and balance it off with local vegetables so both can be in the market- they say in that case everybody wins. Cowo also said that no one went out to assess the state of the market, to see what vegetables were available or not - they just simply revoked the permits.

Agric Min Says Farmers Have "Attitude"

And today the Minister of Agriculture told us that the inconsistent supply is because the farmers don't tell the Ministry how much they are producing - so they can't plan properly on how to balance the permits for imports against the local produce:..

Hon. Gaspar Vega - Dep. Prime Minister/Min of Agriculture
"As much as the consumers would want only quality, we have encourage producers, but the same time we have to insist on producers that we have to do better. However, I would like to mention to everyone especially the farmers, that they have to be more cooperative. We are here to assure market not only to the big guys, to the small guys and to everyone but we have to have this line of communication. You cannot have an attitude because they are some farmers who have an attitude when you ask them how much have you planted? They say that's not your business. These are things that affect us in the ministry because rightly you would be the same one asking us, why don't we have enough carrots in our market? So it's a balancing act like you rightly said, but it's challenging and I want to say that it's not the first time. Almost every year at the beginning of production we have this situation and towards the end also because we don't know when the local production will be finished or when it will start - exact figures. It's difficult."

Jules Vasquez
"Now the specific allegation is that you have rewarded one of your supporters with a license which he then submarkets to people and that it is in fact this playing of political preference which has caused the imbalance in the local supply. How do you respond to that?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega
"I would say that's petty and I don't think I need to answer it."

Jules Vasquez
"Is it true?"

Hon. Gaspar Vega
"No I don't need to. I just won the elections."

Channel 7


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