by Ray Auxillou
HON. RENE MONTERO, AGRICULTURE MINISTER, BANS IMPORTATION OF VEGETABLES INTO BELIZE
by Ray Auxillou, April 18th, 2008
The new UDP government has banned the importation of vegetables into Belize, the newspapers have announced. In a world where a food crisis is looming, Belize has become self sufficient in food production. The nation is sitting very pretty for food supplies.
In the last five years, a hydroponic vegetable farm at 25 mile, has been producing organic vegetables non-stop, for sale to restaurants and hotels over on Ambergris Caye, every week of the year, for the past four years. In Hillview, Santa Elena, FALCONVIEW BACKPACKERS ADVENTURE HOSTEL, has been producing vegetables and reaping them twice a week, for the past 16 months, in a non stop production cycle, to serve the needs of the hostel, from a small rooftop 7 ft x 14 ft space. Producing lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, mint, basil, lettuce, leaks ( thin onion ) and other vegetables.
Farmers can produce vegetables in Belize all year around. There are some things to know.
1) vegetables need daily watering
2) vegetables need soil preparation first, to be successful
3) unlike Milpa farmers working with two rainy season crops, all year round, the 52 weeks a year, requires you plan the variety you will grow. Central Farm Research Station hotline has this information.
Basically there are four types of vegetables. There are those which will grow all year long. Those that will grow all year, but go dormant during, either the heat of the summer ( April to August ) or will go dormant in the winter ( December to February ), though the plants will still live, but just not produce. There are those that need to be planted from September through March, those that need to be planted March through May and those that can be planted anytime.
The banning of imports of vegetables is expected to see temporary vegetable price rises as the economy adjusts to local production. Shortages shouldn't last more than four months. After that; as farmers learn the new technology of vegetable growing, the varieties that grow best in Belizean conditions will drop prices again through competition, by vegetable market gardening operations, by small farmers and commercial entrepreneurs. There have been vegetable farmers grossing more than half a million dollars a year locally. This year 2008, some are betting the first vegetable millionaire grower will emerge.
Milpa farmers who rely on old fashioned, two rainy seasons, slash and burn and do not wish to prepare their soils for vegetable plots, will probably be phased out, as competition from professional career vegetable farmers supply the markets in all districts, on a weekly basis.
Bread might be a problem as it is imported, but we lived in British Honduras Colonial times without imports of flour, on corn tortillas and cassava flour and banana flour. We can do it again. Bread from imported wheat with oil at $117 a barrel today is a luxury we are going to have to change probably. We can feed ourselves now, is the good story and the UDP are intent on making us do so, in this world gone mad with oil caused inflation.