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Corn Crops Wither Without Rains #537870
08/21/19 06:13 AM
08/21/19 06:13 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 71,964
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Corn farmers in the Village of Blue Creek are feeling the effects of the very dry weather. Reports say that 6 farmers have cumulatively lost over half a million dollars in revenue and investment because of the lack of rain.

One farmer told us today that the corn farming population in that village has dwindled over the years from 40 to only 7 or 8 now. They planted this year's crop several months ago, expecting to harvest around this time. But, they had to make the hard choice to cut down 1,250 acres of corn, valued at $600,000.

About 2 weeks ago, the farmers started realizing that the crop was in danger of drying out completely. So, before the heat completely destroyed the corn, the farmers harvested it. They are now using this drought-affected crop as cattle feed, in an effort to salvage some value out of it. We're told that drought has caused the usual cattle pastures to also dry out. And so, this lost corn will allow the farmers to keep their cattle fed for the short term.

Channel 7

Re: Corn Crops Wither Without Rains [Re: Marty] #537892
08/22/19 06:19 AM
08/22/19 06:19 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 71,964
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Drought Decimates Corn Crops In North

Last night, we told you how the extended drought in the northern districts has devastated the corn farmers of Blue Creek Village in Orange Walk.

Well today, we got to see the extent and cost of the damage to this year's corn crop first hand. Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Rodney Dyck - Grain Farmer, Blue Creek Village
"It's supposed to be twice this size, 3 times this size for sure. At this stage, you'd call it the stage to make tamalitos. But, there's nothing left."

"So, nothing is there."

"So no tamalitos?"

Rodney Dyck

Daniel Ortiz reporting
As you heard Rodney Dyck said, this ear of corn's growth is severely stunted even though the crop from which it was pulled is close to its mature state.

These hundreds of acres cornfields you see cleared here in Blue Creek Village should have been left for a little bit longer before the big harvest. Unfortunately, the severe drought that's been hitting the north has caused over 1200 acres of corn to go bad. If they were left to become fully mature, the plants wouldn't produce the high-quality corn that it normally does when the rains are bountiful. Because the wet season never actually arrived in the north, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone to waste.

Albert Rempel - Grain Farmer, Blue Creek Village
"Usually the rain starts coming in late May, and that's when crops get planted. And so, we actually did get rain about that time, which triggered the farmers to of course start putting the crops out there. So, we planted, and then, it just stopped raining. That was about it. There was sufficient moisture for the crop to actually sprout and come up, as you see behind me. That did work. It did come up, but then, it just didn't rain enough to keep the crop growing to where it could produce harvestable ears on the corn."

Rodney Dyck - Grain Farmer, Blue Creek Village
"For the last 3 months, we haven't been getting the rains that we need. And the corn has just started - it started to grow really nice because we got to plant into moisture. We had about 2 inches of rain. And so, the farmers all figured, okay, the rainy season has started. Let's start to plant. And we stopped having rain, right after planting, and we only got about half of our acres planted. Usually, we run 500 acres of corn, and this year, we only have 280 acres planted. We would have liked to plant everything, but we were lucky that the rains stopped completely, that we didn't fill the farm with corn, because we'd be further in debt, because of that. Now we only have 280 acres that's dying on us right now."

So, to try and salvage some of the value out of this crop, the farmers are harvesting it early to turn into hay for sale to the cattle ranchers.

Albert Rempel
"There comes a time in the cycle of the plant that you just see that it won't be able to fulfill, even if the rain comes. That time has passed. Like it won't be able to actually produce the crop that's supposed to. Basically, it's just a gut feeling that you just see that that won't happen, and so, we might as well salvage. And we just cut it and feed it to the cows, because it does have nutritional value in the stalk itself. But, that doesn't pay for the expenses that have been put in."

"Between me and my brothers, we planted 180 acres at this point. There was a different crop, soybeans, that we were gonna put in later. But, we had planted 180 acres that have all been cut for cattle feed at this point."

Rodney Dyck
"We started moving the machines on Monday. We started mowing the far side, and then yesterday, we got a little drizzle. So, we stopped because once you get a drizzle on mowed hay, it starts to rot. And so, we're just gonna wait until the sun comes out, and we'll chop all the rest. So, 200 and - the full farm is gonna be chopped and fed to cattle, just to salvage the little bit that you can."

So, because this year's corn crop was heavily hit by the drought, the farmers aren't willing to risk planting soybeans. That's would have been the second crop for the year that would have been cultivated in these fields. But, because the drought has been extended, that Soybean opportunity is most likely also lost.

Albert Rempel
"Soybeans are normally planted a little bit later in the year than corn, due to the length of the days, and when we harvest at the end of the year. Soybeans, the mark where plant soybeans are normally in July, the middle towards end. And that's past a month now. So, for us to put in a soybean crop yet, the days are numbered. So, likely, we will lose all that revenue as well."

And for the Blue Creek farmers, the financial losses as a collective are staggering.

Albert Rempel
"I'm not sure. It's at $252,000 that we would have expected to get in return."

Rodney Dyck
"What you see behind me is the corn that's been planted. I already have about a $125,000 invested in that corn. And I'll maybe get - maybe - $30,000 from that. And then, I have all the rest of the acres that are supposed to be planted in June and July, and the longer I wait, the less of a chance I have to get a good yield on the rest of the acres."

Peter Dyck - Manager, Northern Grains Cooperative
"On soy beans, well, they're still hoping for rain. They're hoping to plant yet. But if they can't plant, if the rains don't come soon, there will be about a 2.3 million-dollar revenue lost on soy beans alone. On corn, the way it looks right now, it will probably be about 2.5 million-dollar revenue loss."

Rodney Dyck
"The inputs, most of it comes from loans through banks, and that's how we finance with, normal interest rates."

But, even though their way of life is putting them through financial hell, for these farmers, it's a labor of - currently unrequited - love.

Albert Rempel
"So far, it's always just always been, you just hope for a better year. You hope that the rains will be better next year. So, you put in another crop to try and recover, and it has happened. Luckily, for us farmers out here, it has happened. We've had losses before, and then all of a sudden, we'll have a year where prices are good, markets are good, and inputs have been reasonable, and so, yields are good. But, those come around once every 10 years maybe. So, we're forced to stay afloat with other sources of inputs, like - as you know - a lot of the farmers out here they don't have just a grain farm. Some of them also have a cattle ranch. So, they balance each other out once in a while. But now, this drought has been so extensive that even the cattle farms are suffering because there's not enough water to even sustain the cattle from the grass they're able to feed on."

"For those of us who aren't farmers, who don't love the land the way you do, it seems like you are fighting an uphill battle. Why would you continue to do this to yourselves annually?"

Rodney Dyck
"You know, I ask myself that every year, and I really enjoy the work. I love to farm. And that's one part. That's one part of it. I have to look around because I know the farm it's just sinking and sinking. It's very very difficult in Belize to be a farmer. In the world, when you talk farmers, farmers know it's difficult."

Channel 7

Re: Corn Crops Wither Without Rains [Re: Marty] #537903
08/22/19 08:36 PM
08/22/19 08:36 PM
Joined: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,428
Mine Hill NJ
dabunk Offline
dabunk  Offline
We are floating here in Toledo!!

Re: Corn Crops Wither Without Rains [Re: Marty] #537905
08/23/19 05:24 AM
08/23/19 05:24 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 71,964
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Mitigating Farming Risks

Last night, we showed you the plight of the grain farmers from Blue Creek Village in Orange Walk. 

The months-long drought that has been most intense the northern districts has decimated their corn crops. They are at risk of over 2 million dollars in revenue lost because the drought has stunted the growth of their corn. 

They can't get any commercial value out of the crop, and so, most of it was salvaged to provide feed for cattle ranchers. 

Yesterday, they showed us 2 separate fields of corn. One was kept healthy by mechanical irrigation, which they say is expensive and unsustainable. The other waited for the rain which never came, and the crop had to be scrapped.  

So, we wondered will the local farmers be able to adapt to survive weather and climate change? Here's what they told us about that:

Albert Rempel - Grain Farmer, Blue Creek Village
"We don't have any irrigation. We have tried to get into it, but it's very costly to get into. So, on a farm that's struggling to try and stay above water, it's almost impossible to get into because you have to invest so much more money, it's almost impossible for that same farm to pay for that kind of investment. If we at a better place where we didn't have all the debts to pay already, then it could still pay for itself."

Rodney Dyck - Grain Farmer, Blue Creek
"There's that one year out of every 4 or 5 years where things go well, and you enjoy it so much that you try. It sounds like I'm a gambler right? [laughs] We try to reduce the risk as much as possible. And so, we try to invest in as much reduction in risk as possible. So, this past year, I sloped my fields. And I figured, we get too much rain back here sometimes, where the road that you see here floods, and that floods the whole field. So, I put the levees around my field, and I sloped the field. So, I figure that's my insurance. We can't buy crop insurance like they can in the US, so we do what we can to insure. And then, irrigating, and pivot irrigation, making reservoirs, making wells, that's all stuff that we can do, but that costs a lot of money. And so, those are things that we'll have to try for the future, see if we can get the financing to make our own insurance for our crops."

Hon. Jose Mai - Area Rep., Orange Walk South
"Other countries implement crop insurance. Mexico, right over the river from where we were today, they have crop insurance, not for everything. But, they do have crop insurance. I have heard the CEO said it's too expensive for us, but I don't know."

This evening, we spoke with Jose Alpuche, the Agricultural Ministry CEO, and he told us that the corn farmers are not the only ones that have been hit hard by the drought. Currently, the Ministry is conducting an exercise to assess the losses within the agricultural sub-sectors.

Alpuche told us that the Agricultural Ministry does not have resources to aid farmers in times like these where disaster recovery is needed. So, they will have to intercede on their behalf to the Ministry of Finance, to what recovery efforts may be available to them. The Ministry will also try to assist farmers to convince their creditors to re-schedule their loans, that they can better manage repayment and recovery during this time of need.

Additionally, there are talks between the Government and the World Bank and other international institutions for the creation of a disaster recovery fund to aid farmers during emergencies such as this one. Unfortunately, these farmers who were affected by this drought will not enjoy the benefit of this initiative, since it is still not finalized.

Also, last year, the Agricultural Ministry started an initiative with the International Fund for Agriculture and Development to 23 communities in the country that is made up of small farmers. The program is called Resilient Rural Belize, and the premise is to implement climate-smart agricultural practices to become more resilient to climate change and to mitigate the damage of natural disasters.

Channel 7

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