2015 National Agricultural and Trade Show is Great Fun!
The annual National Agricultural and Trade Show kicked off in fine fashion on Friday, May 1st.
Held each year in Belmopan, the three-day event show cases businesses and agriculture related services from around the country. It’s an occasion people throughout Belize look forward to each year, and the weekend days see record crowds.
This year, under partly cloudy skies and a tad cooler temps compared to other traditionally hot years, folks turned out in numbers for a family day of fun.
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National Agriculture & Trade Show held in Belmopan
The National Agriculture & Trade Show NATS, being Belize’s biggest exposition dedicated to showcasing the work of small and medium enterprises as well as promoting Belize’s products, ended this past Sunday after three days of continuous fun filled activities. Some 18,000 persons visited Belize’s only dedicated facility for NATS by the Guanacaste Park in Belmopan on Saturday and a further 22,000 persons visited on Sunday; an increase by about 6,000 persons from last year’s show.
His Excellency, the Governor General Sir. Colville Young did an inspection of the Guard of Honor opening the official ceremonies at about 1:30 pm last Friday. Present for the opening were members of the diplomatic corps, heads of departments and other senior government officials. His Worship Khalid Belisle, Mayor of Belmopan also took the opportunity to welcome everyone to Belmopan and urged all to enjoy the festivities.
The Guest Speaker for the occasion was Jose Ruiz Sebastian Marcucci, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock from Guatemala. In his short presentation, Jose Marcucci reported that Guatemala last year created 1,500 credit programs and gave farmers technical assistance to produce corn and rice. He also said that this year, Guatemala will give out over 1,000,000 sacks of fertilizers to micro and large producers---in a country where there exist some 1000 extension officers. Jose Marcucci reminded the audience of the historic moments between Belize and Guatemala on December 17, 2014, where some 13 bilateral agreements were signed, that encouraged the process of strengthening the bilateral relations between both countries; to be able to in the near future establish cultural agreements in agriculture, forestry and the biological sphere.
Also to speak was the Hon. Gaspar Vega, the Deputy Prime Minister of Belize, who urged all to “…celebrate the achievements of our farmers and all our other industrious Belizeans.” The Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture also said that he was happy to be joined by Jose Marcucci at NATS and to forge benefits for the Region.
“Agri-culture is one area where collaboration among neighbors is critical…,” he said, citing that a memorandum of understanding had been signed last year for Belizeans to export live cattle to Guatemala.
“I am sure that you will agree that since I took over responsibility for Agriculture, every year you have seen improvements in the (NATS) show,” said the Hon. Vega, who took time out during the show to visit booths and meet countrymen.
During the opening ceremonies last Friday, three outstanding farmers were decorated by Queen of the Bay of Belmopan. Such a symbolic gesture was fitting for three farmers whose work contributes to Belize’s food security.
Worthy recognition went out to Junior Farmer of the Year Dean Tzib, a 25 year old farmer from San Antonio Village in Cayo, who maintains a 20 acre farm. He grows a variety of crops as well as animals, incorporating agro-ecological practices in his farming system, which includes the use of bio-pesticides and bio-fertilizers such as humus and compost. Also recognized was Ms. Esmeralda Beatrice Escobar as Woman Farmer, for maintaining a 112 acre family farm in La Gracia Village in the Cayo District for which 65 acres are mechanized. In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, Esmeralda Escobar now has two Tilapia ponds measuring 100 X 100 feet. Also ‘sashed’ was 30 year old Jose Uk, for being Senior Farmer of the Year, who gained great favor by placing his hilly 10 acres of landscape under production. Jose Uk grows Citrus, Avocados, Coconuts, Custard Apple, Mangoes and Plantains. He also raises Cattle, Sheep, Pigs and Chickens in an Integrated Farm approach that is viable for him and his family.
During the second day of the NATS, various entrepreneurs came out on the show grounds to exhibit their wares. Among them was Suraj Baxani, from Holland Belize, who maintains a wide variety of low energy Light Emitting Diodes LEDs. According to Suraj Baxani once Belize changes to LEDs there will be tremendous savings in energy, for which he has already approached the Ministry of Energy, Science & Technology & Public Utilities during the past year with his suggestions.
Also during the NATS, a full list of foods were on display such as fruit jams, juices, jellies, bottled fried beans and cassava products that came courtesy of the National Agro Processing unit within the Ministry of Agriculture. Coordinator of that Unit, Ana Howe, made special emphasis that her team works to develop small scale agro processing enterprises, towards increased food security through product research, development and technology transfer.
Some of those very products that Ana Howe had on exhibit were on promotion by The Belize Shop at NATS, but on which during normal times has its headquarters at the Belize Marketing & Development Corporation, located at 117 North Front Street in Belize City. Emil Usher, coordinator of the Belize Shop told us that he is inviting agro-processors to contact him with their labeled Belizean products at 227-3409 or 624-9540.
While the first day of National Agriculture & Trade Show was free for all, in order to recognize families and workers, a small fee was required for the next two days, which were action filled with numerous mechanical rides, rodeo shows and even canoe racing. With the many Belizeans coming out to taste the various cuisines, drinks and meet long time friends, the learning process was also enduring, to fit the theme: “Stimulating Prosperity in Agriculture and Food Production through Renewed Public Private Partnership.