Belarmino Esquivel

It’s one of our non-traditional exports, but papaya production has been holding its own in recent times. Last year alone, Belize exported twenty-one point eight million dollars of the fruit to the United States, Mexico and the United Kingdom. That’s a sizeable production of twenty-four point eight tones which is likely to increase due to a new papaya project in Orange Walk. Belize is partnering with Taiwan and the European Union to produce the Tainung, a special variety of papayas. News Five’s Delahnie Bain reports from Petville.

Delahnie Bain

“The agricultural sector is one of Belize’s most important. It ensures food security, provides employment and is a great source of foreign exchange; just to name a few reasons. There is, however, one agricultural area that is yet to reach its full potential and that is the papaya industry. But this five acre plot may very well be the key to the industry’s growth on the export market.”

Delahnie Bain, Reporting

A collaborative pilot project involving the ROC-Orange Walk Technical Mission, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, The European Union through the La Immaculada Credit Union as well as papaya farmers in the north was officially inaugurated in Orange Walk this morning.

Belarmino Esquivel, District Agriculture Coord., Orange Walk

“What we are basically doing with this pilot project is to have it as a demonstration. Here we will be having field days like this one today to expose farmers to new alternatives of producing. We will also be doing training sessions in regards to papaya production and also field demonstrations. So this is like the school of learning of transferring the technical knowhow of how to produce papayas for the export market.”

While the ministry is responsible for technical support, financing and marketing is left up to the partnering organizations.

Yolanda Gomez, Manager, LICU

Yolanda Gomez

“We are managing a grant fund that was signed between the government of Belize and the European Union. The government of Belize is the contracting authority and they signed a contract with us, La Immaculada Credit Union Limited, and under this grant we have different activities that can qualify to receive these grants, one of them being the papaya producers project going on today.”

Wilbert Valencia, Head of Marketing, Little Belize Exporters Ltd.

“Our duty here with little Belize is we are taking the responsibility of exporting whatever this project with Taiwan Mission, we will be exporting the papayas that will be coming out from these fields.”

A previous papaya production project, funded by the Belize Rural Development Program, was disrupted by Tropical Depression number sixteen in 2008, which damaged around a hundred acres of crops. But this time around, there are measures in place to mitigate the effects of bad weather.

Belarmino Esquivel

“We have some risk management factors that we have taken into consideration. For example, when we have excessive rains, the drainage system that is in place here, it will help a lot if we have excessive rains and also the raised beds that we have, that will help a lot. If we have a dry spell, we have the irrigation system in place.”

The papaya production project is expected to bring significant growth to the industry and there are plans to expand if the pilot is as successful as the parties involved are confident it will be.

Yolanda Gomez

“There is a high demand for papayas right now in the world especially the US and there is an excellent market opportunity there so we are very, very happy and we know that this project will be a success as there is an established marketer already.”

Belarmino Esquivel

“The agencies are here to support, to facilitate. ROC Mission is providing funding, La Inmaculada Credit Union funding, the Ministry is providing the technical orientation in regards to the papaya production but it is the farmer at the end of the day that will have to put that daily activity to ensure that there is water in the plant, the fertilization, the monitoring of pests and diseases.”

Ambassador for the Republic of China on Taiwan, David Wu, says this is only one of four successful initiatives they have taken on in Belize and there is more assistance to come.

David Wu

David Wu, Ambassador, Republic of China (Taiwan)

“Apart from this horticulture, we also have the rice seed project, we have the food processing project and we are not constructing the ICT Center in Belmopan. We are also now probing the possibility of doing the micro loans to the farmers for them; to lend money from the financial institute, which you know we will be collaborating with to give them micro loans for them to start farming or to improve their farming technology.”

There are also plans to train at least fifty farmers in the procedures for growing export quality papayas.

Delahnie Bain

“The project is expected to run twenty-eight months with harvesting set to begin between December 2010 and January 2011. Reporting for News Five from Petville, Orange Walk, I am Delahnie Bain.”