Million dollar investment improves poultry industry
Ever wonder where all that chicken we eat in Belize comes from? Today I found out.
Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Whether you like it fried, baked, or barbequed, chicken is what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Belize. Local officials contend that every year Belizeans consume an average of ninety-six pounds of chicken per person.
And today, the official opening of a new processing facility in the north ensured that we won’t be running out of the popular birds any time soon.
During ceremonies in Blue Creek this morning, Caribbean Chicken opened the doors to its largest ever investment: a two million dollar state of the art factory designed to improve capacity, safety, and efficiency.
Walter Kornelsen, Board of Dir., Caribbean Chicken
”Right now we are doing, making very long days, we are starting at seven in the morning and we will, and many times, it’s going to be eight o’clock in the night before we finish...About eight thousand birds a day right now and that is four or five days a week.”
“And you hope that will increase to what?”
”Well in the future if there would be an export market we can easily double it, but if not, then we will continue if the market grows in Belize.”
Caribbean Chicken began its operations almost two decades ago and today is one of the largest employers in the Orange Walk District. After two years wrangling for financing to get this project off the ground, today the company is keeping its fingers crossed that the gamble will pay off. Industry insiders tell News Five that expanding into new markets both at home and abroad will be critical to the success of this initiative.
Orlando Habet, Manager, Belize Poultry Association
”If you look at the size of the industry and our population, you’d want to think there isn’t room for more because we are producing enough chicken to supply our local demand. Where I think some entrepreneurship would work would be in the further processing of new products because we are importing several million dollars of processed meats, chicken sausages, bologna, everything else and the industry currently hasn’t ventured into much agro-processing of their products.”
Michael DeShield, Director of Food Safety, BAHA
”I think we are well on our way to get to the international level where we can export and we have the capacity here, we have the people who have the dedication, especially in the poultry industry. These people are serious about doing business, they are serious about food safety, they are serious about animal health.”
Jose Alpuche, C.E.O., Belize Agro Productive Sector
”Any investment for HASSAP certification or let’s say ISO 9000 requires quite a lot of technical know-how, as well as the financial investments. A lot of the companies, quite frankly need to band together as we see here in this. It’s not a single investor, it’s in effect a cooperative joint venture, and that’s way we need to go. We’ve got to pool our resources, our human as well as our capital resources, to ensure that we can meet the standards required, that we do have the know-how and the resources to put into it.”
The Belize Agricultural Health Authority is presently conducting inspections throughout the processing chain, from the farms to the factories to the kitchen tables. And while Belize has been given a clean bill of health for diseases like the bird flu, BAHA’s Director of Food Safety Dr. Michael DeShield admits the chicken’s export potential is vulnerable to several external factors.
”A lot of things, because of the disease, and that’s where we are because everybody is scared of the avian influenza. They are kind of battling down their own production, so they want to make sure that a lot of things are not coming into countries. There is always that worry about producers in different countries trying to protect their own domestic market. But given that, if you have the standards and you have the capacity to produce the chickens, then you can explore those markets. So you just need people to go out there and develop that market access.”
Godfrey Smith, Minister of Foreign Trade
”Once the machinery and equipment is in palace, it’s then to get into the markets. If you take rice for instance, which is also grown by the Blue Creek community, they are at the point where they are saying, look we are ready to break into other markets. So things like the partial scope agreement that we have negotiated with Guatemala, is something obviously that needs to be multiplied so that our producers can start breaking into other markets.”
“Certainly I think as well with the coming of CSME, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, it will make it that much easier for communities like this one to be able to break into regional markets. But that’s definitely the main priority from here on.”
According to the Belize Poultry Association, in 2004 the industry produced over fifty-four million dollars worth of chickens and eggs. In addition to Blue Creek, Spanish Lookout in the Cayo District is the other major centre of Belizean poultry production.