images2013 will go down in the history book as the year of bad business for farmers especially onion producers who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth in produce due to the inclement weather. Here in the north, 75 onion producers felt the wrath of Mother Nature as nearly all their crop has been wiped out due to the heavy rains.

 

In order to assist these farmers and others countrywide whose crop was also affected by the incessant rains, the Ministry of Agriculture is making its rounds and providing farmers with animal feed, seeds and other agricultural products and yesterday onion producers from the north received much needed assistance to get back on their feet. Reporter Victor Castillo has the story.

 

Victor Castillo – Reporting


The incessant rains over the past months flooded out thousands, if not millions of dollars worth in onion.

As fields became saturated with water the product started to rot and to date over 98% of the onion production has been destroyed. With this, local vendors are experiencing a shortage and an increase in price of the vegetable which trickles down to Belizeans who consume approximately 90,000 lbs of onions weekly.


With so much at stake, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken the initiative of assisting the local and small farmers here in the north and across the country in getting back on their feet and by doing so, preparing them for this year’s harvest.


Barry Palacio – Ministry of Agriculture Corozal


“Today we are basically gathering to meet with the farmers and through the ministry of agriculture, we have secured some amount of seeds that the farmers will be able to plant back and be able to bounce back in terms of onion production, it will not be the same as previous years simply because of adverse weather conditions and the late start that they will have in 2014.”


Victor Castillo – Reporter


“We know for a fact that there is a high demand in onion within country wide, we had a huge lost last year and you mention that the ministry of agriculture is assisting farmers with some seeds for replantation of onions, what is the amount that each farmer will be getting at the end of this project?”


Barry Palacio – Ministry of Agriculture Corozal


“Based on the report of the losses each farmer suffered they basically be receiving approximately a rate of one pound of seed, in some cases two or three depending on the volume or the acreage that they have planted last year so we prorated what the loss with the amount of seeds that are required for them to bounce back into onion production.”

 

Victor Castillo – Reporter


“We are talking about one pound to three pound, in each pound how many acres of onion are we looking into?”

 

Barry Palacio – Ministry of Agriculture Corozal


“Basically, with one pound of seed they will be able to plant a little over half an acre with that so that when we look at the losses that they suffered because we are not compensating the farmers with all that they actually planted and lost, it is simply we look at the numbers and we prorated their losses and we said look this farmer will be able to with this pound of seed they will be able to plant back a per cent of what they would have normally planted.”


According to Belarmino Esquivel, Extension Director for the Ministry of Agriculture, the initiative will serve as a form of motivation for farmers who were affected tremendously. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture is also providing onion producers with food coupons.


Belarmino Esquivel - Ministry of Agriculture


“What we are doing with this is to motivate farmers, not to give up but to start coordinating planting again and we have assisted over 50 to 70 farmers both from Orange Walk and Corozal however, the help will not stop only here, this help will also be extended to Belize and we are going to help the farmers who lose their onion in Belize and the farmers who lose in the Cayo District, the government of Belize particularly now though the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, we will also be providing field aid which include rice, which includes beans and corn, today the onion farmers in Corozal and Orange Walk also got a coupon for twenty pounds of beans, twenty pounds of rice and then twenty five pounds of corn.”


Victor Castillo – Reporter


“Is this for them to plant or is for their consumption?”


Belarmino Esquivel - Ministry of Agriculture


“It is for their consumption, like an incentive for farmers to look at the onion as a new industry and it is an opportunity to diversify, we can no longer be relying on only one crop but there is a need to diversify because agriculture is very important, agriculture production for food security, income generation and our foreign exchange and our economy is strictly based on the agriculture sector so by doing this it is commitment to our ministry, of agriculture to engage farmers one more, in the production of onions, vegetables and to maintain production.”


But food coupons will just serve their purpose for a while. Truth of the fact is farmers need to harvest their crop in order to make money and sustain their family. This will take a while since farmers won’t be able to harvest their first crop until the month March when there will still be a shortage of onion.


Belarmino Esquivel - Ministry of Agriculture


“Well, our production forecast we should have started with onion production this coming week January, the farmers in San Carlos and some of the farmers here in Corozal would have started supplying the local market, unfortunately in the new yea 2014 we had rain again excessively and some of the farmers were flooded and farmers losing their crops so if farmers are to plant now, next week if weather permits and we hope to have favourable weather conditions to plant it usually takes ninety days for the onions to mature so this means that we will not have enough onion to supply the local demand for the month of January and the month of February, we are hopeful that by March we should be coming up with some onions but will not be enough to supply the local demand.”


Victor Castillo – Reporter


“So the target that was set back by Mr. Palacio for the year that they had a target of 5 million pounds of onion to meet the national consumption, do you foresee a slack in that or the target is still on?”


Belarmino Esquivel - Ministry of Agriculture


“Certainly because of the climatic conditions we will have a shortage, we will not be able to meet that target however we are still hopeful that farmers will get into production again, they will plant, seeds have been given and fertilizers and while that is the target and that target is not plan for it to be met for this year but also we want to meet that target for the following year and what is important is that we are now looking, that is the demand 5 million annually, for local consumption so what we are doing in the ministry is to validate some early varieties and some ale varieties and to prolong the supply for the local consumption and we are also looking at storage.  In the near future we will be establishing some storage facilities, we are looking to establish four or six facilities here Corozal and we want to establish some in Orange Walk so that through the proper farmer organization and coordination the flow of information we will be able to probably, for sure we will be able to extend the supply of local onions for local consumption.”


Also present yesterday during the distribution of seeds was Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Area Representative for Corozal North Hugo Patt, who addressed the farmers.


Hon. Hugo Patt


“Les invito y les pongo un reto juntamente con el ministerio, quisiera yo decirles de que pongámonos las manos todos para un propósito y que este ano sea un ano fructífero, sea un ano vedijoso, yo crea que a pesar de los retrasos que han visto no sabemos que exactamente que el tiempo nos va a traer peo para mí los productores son gente de mano duro y eso es el sentimiento de debemos de sacar pero el reto viene concretado por dos aspectos usted son muy buenos productores y saben cómo sembrar cebolla desde el momento de la preparación del terreno hasta que ese grano se convierte en una macolla y hasta que ustedes venden ese producto.”


Of course, no one could be more elated for the initiative than the farmers themselves.


LaurentinoChe – Onion Farmer


“Pues a nosotros nos va ayudar bastante porque con esto nosotros podemos sembrar otra vez y a veces no nos permite el tiempo.”


Victor Castillo – Reporter


“El año pasado cuanto acres de cebolla había sembrado?”


LaurentinoChe – Onion Farmer


“Un acre y medio de cebollas había sembrado a un valor como de $4000 va bidé perdido y perdí todo ya no hay ganancia. Si el tiempo nos permite podemos lograr mejor esta próxima siembra.”


On January 15th the same initiative will be taken to the Cayo District.

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