cattleThis morning, the third leg in the cattle sweep project taking place in rural Belize was launched. The aim of the project is to detect two diseases that affect livestock and can be harmful to humans if consumed. The process is in three phases prior to the exportation of the livestock to Mexico and Guatemala.

 

So far, sweeps have taken place in northern Belize and today Reporter Maria Novelo had a first-hand look at the Belize National Sanitary Cattle Plan Project that has a seemingly lucrative outlook for the Belize cattle industry and its stakeholders.


Maria Novelo – Reporting


Before local Belize beef can tap into the international markets and dinner tables, livestock farmers have to ensure that each head of cattle is disease free. Belize Agriculture Health Authority, (BAHA), which is the chief implementing organization, launched a cattle sweep project in the north two years ago. Today, cattle farmers and livestock cattle producers are reaping the benefits of that project.


Cattle Farmer


“I can anticipate that our cattle number will double in the next ten years and that it is going to be a business as the minister says an not just a catch and kill kind of a thing so we will have a great future and that future will have never happened had it not happened for this sweep, this is the beginning of a vision and I want to thank the EU for helping.”

 

Alistair Macpharson – CEO, Livestock Association


“After two years of the sweep the people are seeing the  huge increase in price that we are getting for our cattle under seeing the benefits being a long term sustainable thing so they are looking now cattle farming as a long proper business rather than just issuing this policy that a couple of cows in your back yard.”


To enable export of cattle, the sanitary status of bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis of Belize national herd has to be determined. To date, only one case of TB has been detected in West Belize. Veterinary Coordinator of the Cattle Sweep Project, Homero Novelo, says the best way of finding the disease is through a nationwide surveillance program.

 

Homero Romero – Veterinary Coordinator, BNSCPP


“In the country of  Belize we’ve done 97000 plus animals on the first sweep, the second sweep is finishing this Saturday and today we are launching the 3rd sweeping so we starting testing here in the north.  Belize is divided in three zones; we have the northern zone which entails Orange Walk and Corozal, the Central zone which is Belize District and Cayo and the southern zone which is Stann Creek and Punta Gorda so the sweep goes from north to south and so forth we been testing all these animals but we have not found any brucellosis, we only found a case of tuberculosis in Spanish Lookout, s once the program finds a case this is handed over to BAHA and they are the competent authority that will ensure that the disease is contained and the farm is quarantined so the disease contained eradicated so far I the second sweep we did not find any other animal reacting and being positive to tuberculosis or tuberculosis so this is the launching of our third sweep; the project itself is design for three sweeps however, for Belize to get a status there is five sweeps so there is the 4th and the 5th sweep to be done however by the ending of this year or about ten months from now we  will be finishing the 3rd sweep.”


It’s all great news for a very promising cattle industry for Belize, but why are local prices being driven up? CEO of the Livestock Association, ALISTAIR MCPHERSON says, world prices and demand has soared.


Alistair Macpharson – CEO, Livestock Association


“The global prices is rising and don’t believe the United States have ever been so high, the demand is rising, the number of beef is falling because people are eating more beef and the breeding hasn’t kept up with the increase in demand, and with the cattle sweep people will see that we have access to that market an so that itself has brought the price of the cattle up it is not just because of the cattle but because we have been able to market and enter to these markets legally because of the cattle sweep that is what really brining the price up her so without the cattle we would still be struggling and having to take whatever was offered to us.”


The project nwas developed in response to Governments and the European Union’s efforts to promote Belize’s export diversification and foster food security, says EU’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei.


Paola Amadei – EU Ambassador to Belize


“You have heard the satisfaction among the famers convene here today, you have heard that there is a lot of interest to expand existing farms but also for new farmers to come into the sectors, there is a promising market that in the region that the minister was referring to the memorandum of understanding signed with Guatemala, there is another one in preparation in El Salvador, the Mexican market and further the US market are at very strong demand and that is exactly what we want to achieve, the contribution for the project shall allow the community in Belize to become more prosperous and to be able to sustain themselves.”


Gaspar Vega – Deputy Prime Minister


“A lot of people were sceptic about the word cattle sweep they did not know what to expect, but after the first sweep the attitude of the farmers who have had that reluctance have change I must say that and I must thank them and I think the farmers have realized that all we doing is enhancing the cattle sector by bringing better value to their animals and at the end of the day that was the main objective so the second went a little better and I and certain that the third leg will be even less challenging because as it was mentioned earlier today the price of the cattle on hoof  before the first sweep was ninety, ninety five cents per pound versus today you would get up to $2.50 per pound so he cattle farmers are realizing that the cattle sweep made that change in the pricing.”


Alistair Macpharson – CEO, Livestock Association


“We know that our beef is clean and with the surveillance systems that go in place after the cattle sweep is over and the traceability systems we will be able to continue to supply the Belize market and also international markets with clean, healthy animals for the plate.”


When status and certification has been gained, farmers will be able to fetch better prices per pound of beef and access other international markets.


The project, which was signed in August 2011, has received EU contribution of BZ$6.1 million, representing 50 percent of the overall costs needed for full completion. Ambassador Amadei says farmers and the Government will fund the continuation of the testing and monitoring in sweeps 4 and 5. The Belize Livestock Association has approximately 2800 cattle farmers countrywide.

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