Green Tropics says they are not to blame for damage of crops in Valley of Peace
The verdict is in on the crops damaged near Valley of Peace in the Cayo District. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that Green Tropics’ verdict is in. The huge sugar-cane company is in the process of clearing almost twenty thousand acres of land to plant cane. They also plan to build an on-site factory to mill that cane. It’s a significant project requiring massive clearing of land. To do that, the company used a plane to spray an industrial herbicide, but that landed them in some hot water when nearby crops suddenly died. Today, News Five went on a fly-over the area and Mike Rudon has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
The work at Green Tropics in Western Belize has been proceeding on schedule, but in mid-March the company came under fire from farmers in Valley of Peace. Those farmers claimed that Green Tropics sprayed a herbicide which killed their crops.
Beverly Burke, Country Representative, Green Tropics
“In order for us to start preparing land for plants we have to prepare the land of course by clearing it, by putting in the necessary roads as I said. In so doing we started off by doing some aerial spraying. The protocol is that we test the wind speed, the wind direction; we know the exact flight path, the height of the plane all those things we study before doing any type of spraying. The area that we sprayed as you saw there is a buffer in between. Flying over the area you realize that the buffer is pretty much intact and it’s when you see the area where we sprayed then you see the difference.”
For visual context, the brown, dry area is what was sprayed by Green Tropics. Right next to that is what is called the buffer zone, the straight line between the dry areas and dark green vegetation. And next to that are the clearly visible plots of damaged crops.
“If it was a situation where round up had actually hit those fields, everything by now would have brown as our fields. And the buffer as I said is pretty much intact. The forest cover is also intact and looking at their crops from the height that we did, you were able to see that some fields are actually green, were some fields do have the yellowing going on.”
The crop damage and the furious complaints of Valley of Peace farmers spurred Green Tropics into action.
“We came out immediately and we brought the technical people out to really do their first assessment. We collected samples and we sent them to two independent labs, one in Spain and one in Guatemala. We have gotten back results from the one in Guatemala already and as I indicated that I would be talking to you guys when we were certain as to what was going on. We are sufficiently confident in saying that we did not and we would never ever want to see a situation where we are responsible for anything of what’s on the ground. It’s unfortunate that yes there are damaged crops on the fields but I want to categorically state that it’s definitely not form the aerial spraying.”
Green Tropics is satisfied with the evidence provided by its independent analysts, at least the preliminary results. Burke says it’s an infection, and not herbicide. The Ministry of Agriculture is being a little more circumspect.
“Our preliminary results are that the fields are infected, they weren’t affected by the spray of round up but there is a virus in those fields but our preliminary report are suggesting exactly what that is. So I’ve indicated to the Ministry of Agriculture to share our independent findings and we continue to work on work along with them as well.”
Roberto Harrison, CEO, Ministry of Agriculture
“We are still awaiting the arrival of the samples that were sent for analysis at a Salvadorian lab. We are awaiting that to determine the final assessment that we would have done. But as mentioned before we have done comparative leaf photographic leaf comparison and they resembled those of the damaged done by the chemical round up. We are waiting our lab analysis and we will be sure what the damage was done by herbicide or whatever else that have been there.”
As to Green Tropics’ assertion that if Round-Up was the problem the damage wouldn’t have been confined to those very confined plots of farmland…Harrison isn’t accepting that lock, stock and barrel…at least not just yet.
“I wouldn’t be able to say that, we do know that one in fact aerial spraying was done over that area. I wouldn’t be able to say what type of winds were there, what ere the direction of the winds, how high their airplane flew that day. We make our assessment based on what we have on hand otherwise we would have to rely on other expertise to make that type of determination, that in fact it was pr not from as a result of the aerial spraying.”
Those results should be in by Friday. Harrison says that while he cannot provide an exact figure at this time, the damage was significant. Mike Rudon reporting for News Five.
According to Chief Agricultural Officer, Roberto Harrison, if the analysis concludes that Green Tropics is responsible, an assessment of damages will be done by the Ministry, and not by farmers. For its part, Green Tropics has stated that it stands ready to do the responsible thing.