When the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Jose Mai, told the House on Friday that he favored limiting import permits for certain milk and cheeses on the market, it caused quite a stir. Many took to social media to voice their concerns about not having access to their preferred products. Well, it seems the Food Security Minister took notice and has amended his earlier position. Minister Mai says that he is trying to save the small, but thriving dairy industry in Belize. Today, he told us that there is no intention to ban the popular Lala milk or any other imported dairy products such as cheddar or mozzarella cheese. Still, efforts must be made to ensure the survival of the local industry. Statistics show that the food bill for 2020 was up to two hundred and fifteen million dollars. Of that amount, twenty-one point eight million dollars is spent on dairy products; only five million was for Western Dairies, the only local producer of milk and cheeses – the rest was imported from Mexico and Holland. Now, some prefer imported milk for its longer shelf life; this is also the main limitation to fresh locally produced milk. But before the general elections, Minister Mai says that there was a massive importation of dairy products. He says that while a permit is still being issued to the importer, it’s about striking a balance.
Jose Mai, Minister of Food Security
“You have Lala milk or other milks coming into the country from heavily subsidized sources – no GST, no duty – coming in to compete with the milk produced locally by farmers that pay high GST on fuel, high taxes on fuel, high cost of goods and on top of that, the bottles that they use to bottle the milk, these pay twelve point five percent GST and they pay duty and they pay environmental task. So you see the unfairness in this game. We are still analyzing all information, the list of importers, the list of products, how much was brought in. So we are trying to redirect the policy so to speak because it cannot be the norm, it cannot be continuous because we are killing our industries and our heart working producers; we are not helping them.”