Flour shortage reaches crisis levels in Belize

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 10            March 6, 2008

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As of press time there is a major or perhaps a national concern over what is considered the worst flour crises in recent history. In speaking with The San Pedro Sun on Tuesday, March 4th the President of the Belize Bakers Association, Andre Perez stated that Belize is indeed experiencing a major flour shortage. When asked about the reasons, Perez commented there are several factors that have triggered the wheat shortage not only in Belize and the region but the world market as well. Perez stated that farmers in the US have been using allotted acres of wheat producing fields to produce corn, which has a great demand for ethanol production. Moreover, both China and Australia, two large wheat producing nations, have faced major droughts which have had major effects in the supply of flour to the world market. Canada as well has been facing major problems in wheat production.

    In Belize, Perez says that while we do produce some of the wheat we consume, we are facing double problems. Perez explained that we are feeling the effects of world wheat shortage as well as the fact that flour is being smuggled out of Belize into Mexico and Guatemala where it earns a higher price. The Mexican and Guatemalan Governments have recently stopped subsiding wheat in both countries, making a hundred-pound sack of flour $10 to $12 more expensive than Belize.

    In Belize, Perez says that bakers and wholesalers supplies have been rationed. Perez commented that Belize Mills, the only wheat supplier in the country, has been facing difficulty in their regular supply of wheat coming from New Orleans, USA. However, Belize Mills has moved to plan B, which is trucking flour from Guatemala. According to Perez, last week Belize Mills brought in a convoy, consisting of 16 trucks of flour to Belize as a temporary solution. In addition, a second convoy came in over the weekend. According to Perez, Belize Mills has confirmed to the Belize Bakers Association that their regular supply of wheat will or should be in no later than this week.

    Even with their supply in, Perez says that Belize Mills has confirmed that the next supply they receive will come with another price increase. When asked what those increases are expected to be, Perez’ response was that it could be between $10 to $12 per hundred-pound sack. Readers may recall that in December of 2007, a sack of flour jumped from about $50 to $60 dollars a sack; a 20% increase. Perez stated that with the new expected increase, a sack of flour may reach $70 or more.

    Perez commented that with the world wheat crisis and flour price increases, one can expect wheat products to increase including the price of bread on the island. An emergency meeting was held on Wednesday, March 12th with the Belize Baker’s Association and the manager of Belize Mills, but no details were provided.

    According to Perez San Pedro consumes about 20 tons of flour per week.

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