Operations at the Port of Belize have been at a standstill since last Thursday, and now businesses across the country are beginning to feel the effects. Major importers like James Brodies Limited are facing delays. Meanwhile stalled containers and exporters like Marie Sharp and A.S.R./B.S.I. are also in a jam unable to move their products out of the country. They also worry international clients may soon lose patience waiting for their goods. News Five’s Paul Lopez takes a closer look at the problems at the port.

Paul Lopez, Reporting

Gourmet pepper sauce producer Marie Sharp’s Food Limited has two containers full of products stalled at the Port of Belize, meant to be shipped to New York and the Asian market.

Jody Williams, Sales and Marketing Director, Marie Sharp

“The standstill at the port is gravely affecting us. We actually export five to eight containers per month. And, the timing of it all, after Christmas, when everyone wants to restock in our foreign markets. I actually was on the phone since yesterday telling everyone, guess what, there is a delay at the Port of Belize, there is a strike going on, and we will face some delays in shipping, and the main point to relate is that due to the pandemic, we are already faced with so much shipping disruptions and delays from 2020 to now.”

Another exporter experiencing the negative effects of the standoff at the Port is A.S.R./B.S.I.

Ruy Martinez, Regional Commercial Director, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“Just to give you an idea, this week we have about thirty-six containers of direct consumption sugar exports. That is about seven hundred and sixty metric tons of sugar, ok. All of it is bag sugar, in containers. That has a value of about four hundred thousand dollars. So what I am trying to convey in a simple way, is that every single week there is no resolution, we have on average similar amounts. Some weeks we have thirty containers, fifty containers, I can tell you that last week, which is the week before the strike happened, we exported seventy-six containers.”

On the import side, Brodies Supermarket currently has two containers waiting.

On the Phone: Billy Musa Jr., Director, Brodies Supermarket

“It’s affecting us. There will be a shortage of goods if this strike continues at the Port, as well as if the alternative plan is to go to Big Creek Port; of course it will take up the cost of the merchandise that we are importing. So those are the two areas that I see so far we would be affected when it comes to the importation of the merchandise. Also I think it will have an effect on the country because government will be losing revenue when it comes to the duties and taxes if the ships don’t come at all to Belize. I believe with the type of business we have, you are looking at supermarket products; you are looking at pharmaceutical products, general merchandise. So, overall it is general products that will be cost increase, obviously because of the inland freight charges if we have to move it from Big Creek to our inland freight in town.”

Exporters like Marie Sharp and A.S.R./B.S.I., also rely on the Port of Belize Limited for the importation of items needed to operate locally.

Jody Williams, Sales and Marketing Director, Marie Sharp

“We also have some pallets coming in from the States with machinery and packaging material. This means if we don’t get our packaging materials on time, we have some caps on the way and some bottles, it means we can’t make our products here in Belize. So, we may also face shortages of Marie Sharp products if we don’t get these materials on time.”

Ruy Martinez, Regional Commercial Director, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“On our side, it is not only we are exporting sugar, we are also importing inputs, machinery parts, things that we need to run the mill, be it from an industrial point of view, or even from a circuit electricity, etc. So, import is also something, be is some chemicals as well. So, imports are also important for operations.”

One thing is clear, as the standstill at the Port of Belize continues, the pressure on local producers to meet international demands and contracted quotas grows.

Ruy Martinez, Regional Commercial Director, A.S.R./B.S.I.

“You have a lot of other origins, especially the regional origins, Central America, they are there waiting on the spot to cover in that short fall from us, and say that they are reliable, they don’t have these issues and they are rock solid. This just puts Belize as a second category supplier, third or fourth, God forbid, because we want to be, we want to be word class.”

Jody Williams, Sales and Marketing Director, Marie Sharp

“The export market is very difficult at the moment, especially for a hot sauce company like us. Right now around the world we have over a thousand companies fighting for position in the export market when it comes to gourmet hot sauce. The minute we delay those shipments, we could not only lose sales, we could also lose our shelf space.”

Channel 5