Vegetable import ban

Posted By: Marty

Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 05:00 PM

by Ray Auxillou

by Ray Auxillou, April 18th, 2008
The new UDP government has banned the importation of vegetables into Belize, the newspapers have announced. In a world where a food crisis is looming, Belize has become self sufficient in food production. The nation is sitting very pretty for food supplies.
In the last five years, a hydroponic vegetable farm at 25 mile, has been producing organic vegetables non-stop, for sale to restaurants and hotels over on Ambergris Caye, every week of the year, for the past four years. In Hillview, Santa Elena, FALCONVIEW BACKPACKERS ADVENTURE HOSTEL, has been producing vegetables and reaping them twice a week, for the past 16 months, in a non stop production cycle, to serve the needs of the hostel, from a small rooftop 7 ft x 14 ft space. Producing lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, mint, basil, lettuce, leaks ( thin onion ) and other vegetables.
Farmers can produce vegetables in Belize all year around. There are some things to know.

1) vegetables need daily watering

2) vegetables need soil preparation first, to be successful

3) unlike Milpa farmers working with two rainy season crops, all year round, the 52 weeks a year, requires you plan the variety you will grow. Central Farm Research Station hotline has this information.
Basically there are four types of vegetables. There are those which will grow all year long. Those that will grow all year, but go dormant during, either the heat of the summer ( April to August ) or will go dormant in the winter ( December to February ), though the plants will still live, but just not produce. There are those that need to be planted from September through March, those that need to be planted March through May and those that can be planted anytime.
The banning of imports of vegetables is expected to see temporary vegetable price rises as the economy adjusts to local production. Shortages shouldn't last more than four months. After that; as farmers learn the new technology of vegetable growing, the varieties that grow best in Belizean conditions will drop prices again through competition, by vegetable market gardening operations, by small farmers and commercial entrepreneurs. There have been vegetable farmers grossing more than half a million dollars a year locally. This year 2008, some are betting the first vegetable millionaire grower will emerge.

Milpa farmers who rely on old fashioned, two rainy seasons, slash and burn and do not wish to prepare their soils for vegetable plots, will probably be phased out, as competition from professional career vegetable farmers supply the markets in all districts, on a weekly basis.
Bread might be a problem as it is imported, but we lived in British Honduras Colonial times without imports of flour, on corn tortillas and cassava flour and banana flour. We can do it again. Bread from imported wheat with oil at $117 a barrel today is a luxury we are going to have to change probably. We can feed ourselves now, is the good story and the UDP are intent on making us do so, in this world gone mad with oil caused inflation.

Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 05:46 PM

What about the foods that tourists want to eat? If they're freely available in neighbouring countries but not in Belize, how long will it take before they visit those countries instead?
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 06:41 PM

Tourists need to eat what we produce. Belize is not known for culinary tourism. Eat what we produce please, or perhaps you may be more suited in Guatemala or Mexico.

It's about time we got back on track.

Posted By: dabunk

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 07:13 PM

I was in the new Brodies on the northern highway a couple of months ago. We had just come from Chetumal which has great veggies and prices. Large red sweet peppers were 1 US per pound. In Brodies the same peppers were selling for 15 Bze per pound.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 08:30 PM

You'll get some tourists who are happy to take whatever they're offered, but many others won't be. Certainly not at the prices they have to pay for everything here. They'll look elsewhere, and increasingly that is what's happening.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 11:30 PM

Wow, I never imagined people would go elsewhere to find larger produce items. Like they don't have the World's largest grown vegetables (and the widest selection) in the USA and Canada.

Poor people, if they only knew our smiles and fresh caught seafood would make up for our small green bell peppers and tiny potatoes.

Oh well, their loss.

Anybody for McDonald's?
Posted By: flip flop

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/21/08 11:40 PM

So, really....what kind of veggies are we gonna be missing out on (besides bell pepper and little pots)?

Are you saying that there's no potatoes grown in Belize?
Posted By: H20dog

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 01:22 AM

Trade barriers for barriers for beer......taking care of special American!
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 01:39 AM

Actually most of the fruit and vegetables available here taste better than that grown where I moved from. Here everything is sold to eat right away - not to be shipped and stored for long periods of time. My adult daughter who would never eat cooked carrots fell in love with the ones I cook here. We call them ugly carrots as they are not grown to be pretty but to be good and good for you. After several trips here she said she could no longer eat the regular stuff sold in supermarkets and shops for the locally grown organic things available in her area.

No, you will not find a lot of food available year round Ė only in season. I can hardly wait until June when the Mangos come ripe. I saw a golf cart full of locals eating corn on the cob yesterday and I have to get me some!

If you come here and only eat what you did at home you are missing a lot. By the same token stew chicken rice and beans everyday is also short changing yourself.

I donít see this move against imports much different that how the US regulates goods and subsidizes farmers.
Enough said?
Posted By: Hon

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 03:04 AM

I love the fruits and veggies in San Pedro. My only concern would be the lack of bakery goods made with wheat flour. When I'm there (granted only two weeks per year) I've always looked forward to the bread pudding from Casa Pan Dulce and, next year (because I discovered them only this year), I'll miss the cinnamon buns from the French bakery.
Posted By: H20dog

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 03:16 AM

Hon, Don't worry about the wheat flour....according to the article Belize is self sufficient...which means they produce enough for the whole country! Where are their wheat fields by the way?
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 05:32 AM

Is wheat a fruit or vegetable???
OH NO - it's a grain.
Posted By: seashell

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 07:39 AM

Well, hopefully, Ray's speculation regarding wheat flour will not come to pass. I would think that not only would it be upsetting to customers, but disasterous to the bakeries in San Pedro and elsewhere in Belize, to find themselves relegated to baking only with corn products.
Posted By: Katie Valk

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 01:32 PM

Steps are being instituted to mitigate the rising cost of flour for the poor and hopefully, will only offer whole wheat as we hve big problems with food related illnesses, high blood pressure, diabeties, etc
Posted By: H20dog

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 02:41 PM

Hariette....the article says Belize has become self sufficient in food production.......I think that would mean all food groups.
Posted By: dabunk

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 03:27 PM

Belize is far from self sufficient in its food supply. We still import many staples that could be grown here economically, but the infrastructure is lacking. Toledo is one of the richest farming land in all of Belize, but almost all our produce is trucked in.
Posted By: Barbara K

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 05:05 PM

Wheat is not good for humans anyway.
Posted By: KC Jayhawk

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 05:29 PM

From what I read, very few things are anymore!! That's why I've decided to give up reading!
Posted By: Hon

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 06:25 PM

Originally Posted by ScubaLdy
Is wheat a fruit or vegetable???
OH NO - it's a grain.

I don't think there is any need for sarcasm, Harriette. As do most people, I know that wheat is a grain.

My post was referencing the last paragraph in the article...

Bread might be a problem as it is imported, but we lived in British Honduras Colonial times without imports of flour, on corn tortillas and cassava flour and banana flour. We can do it again.

Posted By: dabunk

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 06:31 PM

The whiter the bread, the quicker the dead!
Posted By: Hon

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 06:35 PM I can't indulge in a cinnamon bun while I'm on vacation?
Posted By: Otteralum

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 06:44 PM

Forget cinnamon buns -- what about the import of grains and hops for Belikin!? wink
Posted By: Hon

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 06:54 PM

What was I thinking??? Thanks for putting a grain import ban into the correct perspective, Otter smile
Posted By: azbob

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 07:16 PM

Now that really hurts! Belikin revolt!
Posted By: ChrisW

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 08:55 PM

The Belize Agriculture Minister is either a genius or an idiot.

Right now around the several countries have either banned the exportation of staple foods or are considering it. The countries are trying to ensure that enough food is available to feed their citizens first. The ironic part is that banning food exportation forces farmers to sell at lower local prices so the farmers are inclined to grow fewer crops. So the end result is that the world food shortage gets worse.

Now Belize is doing the exact opposite and encouraging more food to be grown by banning imports. I suspect it is all being done to line some pockets of some politicians and a big vegetable grower or two, but still it might accidentally do some good in the long term.
Posted By: SimonB

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 11:16 PM

Good intentions, bad execution.

They should have placed significant duties on imports over several years, taken that money and used it for research, infrastructure and grants for farmers to implement the new technologies. Then, after several years all imports could be banned without significant impact to retailers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and the general population.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/22/08 11:32 PM

Far better to facilitate local production of foodstuffs such that people choose to buy it instead of imported goods. No need for bans or prohibitions - just ensure the market does it for itself.

That also has the spinoff of reducing the scope for corruption, so on reflection it wouldn't work.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/23/08 11:53 PM

I think if you make imported red bell peppers US$100 per pound, folks here will really enjoy the little green bells produced in Belize a whole lot.
Posted By: klcman

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/23/08 11:59 PM

forget flour & hops..what about RICE????? Yes, Otter, I know rice is a grain but methinks you were thinking of other varieties wink
Posted By: govikes

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/24/08 12:55 AM

That press release is a bunch of bull. Last month, there were no baby carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower (we were told by the owner of the produce shop that what was shipped here by the mennonites was un-saleable), red or yellow peppers and the worst of all only the half rotten little red potatoes. It is extremely hard to cook for tourists when there is so little to choose from and poor quality to boot. Perhaps there is an abundant variety and good quality of veggies on the mainland, but that certainly has not been the case since they banned imports. Curious how this has happened now that there is a menonite in the cabinet, huh?
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/25/08 01:18 AM

Thinking back to my days in Cayo during the mid 80's we had an abundance of fresh vegetables, that weren't imported. Getting up at 5AM to hit the central market will always be a fond memory (not). Nevertheless, we all ate very good as did the entire nation. Perhaps distribution is an issue? When you Buy Belize you Build Belize. Learn to feed the tourists what is produced in Belize, I think they may really like it. If not, Cancun has a Ruth's Chris with at the fixings (100% grown in Mexico).
Posted By: ScubaLdy

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/25/08 03:18 PM

It is amazing what can be grown here on the island. I had always heard differently. I and my neighbors have planted Mango, avocado, lime and papaya trees. I have been eating them most delicious home grown tomatoes and all kinds of peppers for a couple of months now. The melons are blooming.
It is fascinating to see how fast things grown here. I have a well so water is not a problem but the iguanas are. My dogs work all day keeping them out of the garden; gives the dogs something to chase instead of people. (That's an inside joke for people who don't like my dog.)
Growing up in Oregon we produced most of our own food. Subsistence living is a way of life for the poor; it is a luxury for the not poor. As a species we tend to be lazy and let other people do the hard/dirty work and often take pride in this and miss the joy of providing for ourselves.
Posted By: JZB

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/25/08 03:46 PM

I found this interesting from the Statistical Institute of Belize. It seems our exports are increasing faster than our imports. I have yet to find out what % our population has increased by to see any relation.

" Belize's expenditure on imports in February 2008 amounted to $109.24 million. This represents an increase of $4.3 million or 4.1% over February 2007.

Exports earnings in February 2008 expanded by 29.6% to $73.8 million over the same month last year. "

For details, I saved a copy of the bulletin here:

Posted By: weile

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/25/08 06:07 PM

Good thing that other countries haven't returned the favor by banning importation of food products from Belize!
Making it illegal to eat a strawberry and (as is actually the case) classifing any soft drink that is not a product of the Coca Cola license holder as contrabande is not very smart, unless of course you wish to protect certain people's interests. Sort of old-style communist economy controlled by a few capitalists. Well, I guess it makes sense to someone...
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/26/08 12:57 AM
Posted By: SimonB

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/26/08 03:11 AM

On that note:

Sounds like a good way to increase business for sugar cane farmers in Belize.
Posted By: Anonymous

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/26/08 04:49 AM

Originally Posted by weile
old-style communist economy controlled by a few capitalists

A centrally controlled economy has been tried lots of times around the world & I don't think has ever worked anywhere, not for long. All that happens is that certain favoured individuals get very rich.
Posted By: SFJeff

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/26/08 05:01 AM

...about a year ago I had the pleasure of serving a wonderful dinner here at our restaurant to one of the (then sitting) ministers of Belize. Halfway through the meal, I pointed out to him all of the things that he and his wife were enjoying that were contraband. Simulataneously funny and frustrating/sad.

For a young country that has already ammassed an impressive history of shortsighted (and goverened by self interest) decisions, this new "ban on imported vegetables certainly is ranks near the top. Do people realize here just HOW MANY vegetables are imported. And I'm not talking about "exotic" varieties, I'm talking about decent looking carrots, potatoes, avocados, mangos, etc... Do you know how often we call one of the "hydroponic supplies" applauded above to be told they are out of mint, basil, etc... There are times of the year every year when Belize is always out of white onions. The list of frustrations goes on and on...

Yes, Belize can grow a lot of produce.... Cayo is certainly blessed in that deptartment (perhaps transportation of produce out here to the Cayes is one of the hurdles the country needs to overcome?) And sure, you can produce stuff on the island... We have a small farm up north that produces plantains, habanero, basil, limes, etc (or did until hurricane Dean blew through.) Does this mean that there should be an across the board ban on imports? Hardly.

Pedro2 is dead on that tourists are going to look elsewhere... Not to slight the agriculture industry, but in case the UDP did not notice, Belize is slightly dependent upon tourism. Perhaps Honorable Montero might want to consult with the tourism sector before implementing new sweeping and total policies that will affect it.'s actually rather funny explaining to tourists that the avocado they are enjoying is illegal.

This ban cannot last though... and even it it does, people will work around it, just as they do now.

So I'm typing this in a restuarant running on generator because the island/country cannot keep the power on... It went out 1/2 way through our dinner service this eve... Perhaps the GOB should tackle the larger issues first (infrastructure, utilities, etc) and worry about mangos from MX and Strawberries from CA later... in the meantime, TAX the imports... heck, why not let ANYONE bring in ANYTHING they want and simply tax it, then put that $ to good use (rather than someone's pocket.)

Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/27/08 03:20 AM

pssst......just got in some killer onions dude......shhh.....I'll hook you up, keep it on the "dl".
Posted By: weile

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/28/08 07:50 PM

Right on Jeff!
It is beyond pathetic to think that banning the import of products that sell to tourists at a profit will help solving any problems. I guess someone thinks that importing is bad, but if you sell the imported goods at a profit in a country that is mainly surviving on reselling such products to tourists that bring in foreign currency that (unlike the Belize Dollar) is a recognized currency in the international community, it can only be good.
Overall, I am just simply embarrassed by the thought of having to tell my friends and visitors that mushrooms, avocado, Pepsi Cola, apples, grapes etc. are banned by law in a free and democratic country. Something's rotten here, and it ain't just the local veggies!
Posted By: Diane Campbell

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 02:59 PM

Sorry SIN and others - food is about NUTRITION and nutrition is about HEALTH.
We should be allowed to obtain foods that will support our health.
For instance - about those green peppers versus those red peppers ---- people with risk of stroke or heart attacks (many a belizean fits this category) are on medication that reacts terribly with anything green ---- for those people there is a huge difference between red peppers and green ..... and that is the tip of the iceberg.
Mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli are strong anti-oxident foods. These are not luxuries, they are how we keep healthy.
Frankly this is perhaps the one thing that could cause me to move out of this country --- if i cannot support my health with good nutrition there is no way we can contemplate old age here, because if we stay and eat crapy food we will not make it to old age.

Take a look at the levels of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and bad dental health in the population that subsists on a traditional Belizean diet!
Let's fry an onion in lard for half an hour and then fry some hormone filed chicken and add some gummy white rice .......... or bring up a generation of kids on sweetened condensed milk,fry jacks and ideals. Not smart.

We've about fished out the seas -- and the mennonite chickens are pumped so full of hormones that it's terrifying.

Are we really expecting this country to go back to the days of soft carrots, salted fish, soggy cabbage and rotten onions? This is cave-man stuff - realy stupid, really counter-productive.

San Pedro has developed from a lousy place to eat, to a place known for it's really fantastic food - we DO have culinary tourism now and it's a great thing - it also has a lot to do with people deciding this is a decent place for longer-term living (retirement).

Seems like every administration has one guy from Cayo who rams this kind of thing through just after an election without clear planning and thought --- it's nuts. Then we try to get the veggies out to AC and find out that the growers have no understanding on how to ship or deliver ----
Ridiculous and infuriating.

Posted By: SFJeff

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 04:06 PM

Talking to some of the suppliers in BZE, this "ban" is simply not going to happen...
Posted By: JZB

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 04:18 PM

Thats good to hear! There's only so much I can cook with a green pepper, an onion and a head of cabbage.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 04:33 PM

Wow, how did people manage back in the day? I'm surprised my inlaws are still alive.

I foresee some compromises on the horizon.

I see nothing wrong with a healthy diet of sweetened condensed milk, ideals and a big plate of plantain deep fried in lard for dinner. Good thing medical is cheap here.

Does San Pedro need a produce farm up the coast? Any investors out there???? Since we seem to know it all, let's show em' how.

Posted By: SFJeff

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 08:02 PM

...we actually have a "farm up the coast" on the backside of the Caye. That does not mean I want to see ridiculous constraints on what is allowed to be imported. EX: has anyone seen the carrots available as of late? Again, I'm not talking "sunchokes" or "morel mushrooms" or "fresh ramps"... I'm talking carrots. Good thing here that 99% of the time they're drowned in Heinz salad cream...

Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/29/08 10:13 PM

BELMOPAN, Belize, April 29, 2008 - The Belize government has announced tax and duty relief to farmers to reduce the cost of local food production and by extension, reduce food prices for consumers.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced this among the main measures to address the rising cost of living affecting not only Belize but countries across the world.

"We will look particularly closely at the imported inputs that go into agricultural production with a view to eliminating or lowering duties on these so that we might lower the cost of production," he said.

He said government would also provide farmers with expanded access to credit.

"When we give them access to credit as well as lower their costs of production, two things will happen: The prices that they will sell their products for in the local market will go down, and so there will be a direct, dramatic decrease in the cost of food items with respect to local production in this country," Mr Barrow said.

The Belize leader said at the same time, the country's consumer protection agency would be expanded and a new Consumer Protection Act passed to ensure that the savings made by farmers as a result of the relief and assistance are passed on to consumer by way of lower prices. He said price controls will be implemented.

Mr Barrow however urged consumers to shift their consumption patterns, noting that his administration had no intention on lowering duties on imported food "that's not very nutritious, not very healthy and which constitutes a drain on foreign exchange".

"There will be a precisely targeted series of interventions, but we encourage our people to consume more of what we produce, to shift their consumption patterns," he said.

The Prime Minister, who also indicated that the country was looking to expand the production of basic grains, said increased production would allow Belize to develop and in some cases increase its export capacity.

He said that already El Salvador has requested beans to be produced for their market and indicated that they could take some 40 000 tonnes from Belize.

"So, in addition to lower prices here at home, our farmers will be earning much needed foreign exchange. Their standard of living will increase, the country will benefit from the inflows of foreign exchange, and I'm saying in terms of the basics for our people, the prices will go down," Mr Barrow indicated.
Posted By: weile

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/30/08 02:06 AM

"I see nothing wrong with a healthy diet of sweetened condensed milk, ideals and a big plate of plantain deep fried in lard for dinner. Good thing medical is cheap here."

SIN, is everything a big fat joke to you? This is a serious issue, as Diane very wisely describes it. One of the main problems here is that there is no variety in what people eat and that what they eat is not really very healthy. As for the cheap medical: Well, it might be to you; but it surely ain't cheap to the hotel maid and the construction worker with two sick kids.
Posted By: Sir Isaac Newton

Re: Vegetable import ban - 04/30/08 09:51 PM

I have to respond to my friend Weile, who I think is one of the coolest guys on the island and I absolutely love what he has going on up in Mata Grande!

Not everything is a joke, but if you can't laugh about how things operate in Belize then the other option is to cry. I don't live here for that. I always try to RESPOND to change than REACT, which I see too much of on this "information" board that has no real impact on Government policy.

It is easy to understand what is happening in Belmopan, especially as I was in Cayo working with my party for the last election. We lost by the way. Needless to say a compromise will be made, or rather balance will be found especially when the island (center of tourism) now has a very smart representative and Minister on our side, an islander, in addition to local members on the Tourism Board. The pendulum swings, folks are trying to make radical changes, as they promised, which in effect put them in power. Things really got out of hand in the last few years, so the shutters may be pulled in a bit as they were wide open. Belize does need to learn how to produce better veggies and other food items, this is a valid attempt even though not the best thought out plan.

On the other hand there are very healthy foods in Belize although maybe not everyone's favorite choice and a bit limited in variety. Greens = Chaya, the best dark green vegetable on the market, it grows wild in Belize. Protein/Fiber = red kidney and black beans, Belizean. Fish from the sea, have you been to the Conch Shell Bay fish market lately? Citrus, papayas, mangoes, avacados, guava brocolli, peppers, etc.. Belizean beef doesn't get much leaner, I just had a killer T-bone from Southside Meats the other day.

Respond folks, don't react - kinda like taking medicince.

Also, I was the construction worker Weile and my wife has been a maid (amongst other jobs paying us $BZ150 per week and raising three children with plenty of Doctor's visits). My kids live in Cayo and drink fresh milk and eat very healthy home cooked meals daily. Besides some parasites now and again they and the entire set of inlaws are disease free and very healthy. Perhaps its the exercise. If folks here can spend $100s a week on alcohol, I'm sure they don't have a problem spending it on their health.
Posted By: Barbara K

Re: Vegetable import ban - 05/01/08 03:15 PM

I said I wouldn't but I have to chime in here too. For generations Belizeans, Mayans, etc ate a diet including the fats, condensed milk, plaintains, pork, coconut, etc and were not dying of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc till the "western" junk foods, pharmacueticals and sedentary and/or high stress lifestyle became popular. It is not always about the foods but about the lifestyle. People in Greece eat meat, cheese, fats, fried foods everyday and are not dropping dead of high cholesterol, etc. And are not on lipitor, and the rest of that crap supposed to "cure" the man made diseases (which actually just keep you on the meds for life and care nothing about cure.)
Yes, tourists like Belize better with the great restaurants available now. Can't the chefs work with what Belize can produce? Maybe it will create a whole new sustainable culinary style.
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