Lime Scarcity Produces ControversyThere's a lime shortage this easter - and there's a controversy about how the Belize Marketing and Development Corporation is trying to remedy it.
Reports say that the BMDC and BAHA have agreed to import a small amount of limes from Mexico. This has got the Citrus Growers Groups up in arms because they say limes are indeed scarce, but they are available on the market. Secondly, they say that BAHA is not doing a proper pest risk analysis to ensure that there is no risk of pests or diseases coming in with the Mexican limes.
The PUP's shadow minister for agriculture Jose Mai - who is an agronomist by training - has been following developments closely. Today he told our colleagues at CTV-3 in Orange Walk that the idea of importing limes is ridiculous:...
Hon. Jose Mai - Area Representative of Orange Walk South
"There is a shortage of lime globally right now but in two weeks there is going to be enough lime in Belize and in two weeks they are going to harvest, according to SGA, close to 2,000 limes. In the next couple of weeks that will be triplicated to have enough limes. I just think that it is a shame that you put at risk an industry, which is already ailing, by bringing in a few boxes of lime; it is ridiculous."
Mai went on to raise a bigger concern about the health of the Mexican limes. He said that when they originally arrived at the customs cargo area - there were significant issues, which he claims were improperly remedied:...
Hon. Jose Mai
"BAHA's inspection unit, which is there at the border, when they did their inspection they rejected the importation because the limes had insects in it, it had what appeared to be eggs. This means that those importing the lime did not follow the protocol issued to them by BAHA. After BAHA did the pest risk analysis, they said: good, the pest risk analysis is saying that there is no disease of quarantine importance so you can bring in the lime but you have to first ensure that the limes are washed in a solution of chlorinated water and the limes are waxed so that any insect pest would be eliminated during those two processes. However, neither of those was apparently done so the lime showed up at our doors with insects and what appears to be insect eggs. So the BAHA inspection team doing their job said: I am not taking any risk, you cannot bring this lime into the country of Belize; which was a good thing to do. So, now they are caught between a rock and hard place. They ran around and found people from OIRSA Mexico and they treated the limes with metal bromide. Then the limes were allowed to enter the country and are now selling on the local market. Limes imported from Mexico without doing a proper pest risk analysis, being treated with a toxic chemical are now being sold on the market. What a shame, what a damn shame. Now, if the CEO and the Managing Director of BAHA want to drink their margarita with limes that are being treated with metal bromide well that is their business. I personally am not buying any lime from marketing board and using any lime on my ceviche or my drinks. I will not and I do not recommend you to do so."
A statement from the head of plant health at BAHA, Francisco Gutierrez says, quote, "The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Marketing and Development Corporation, requested BAHA to conduct a pest risk analysis in support of the importation of limes to allay the current shortage of the commodity….Such analysis was conducted and importation authorized. At the point of entry Quarantine inspectors detected some pests so an appropriate treatment option was prescribed to eliminate the risk. We want to assure the public that the Ministry of Agriculture and BAHA are fully committed to implementing measures to prevent the entry and establishment of pests of quarantine importance than can affect our productive sector, while ensuring that consumers can have access to safe products for consumption.