The basic grains corn and beans constitute almost 90% of the diet of the population in Belize and almost 95% of the income generated by the sale of these grains is by small producers in the rural communities of Toledo. And in an effort to track and monitor the grains movement, district coordinators within the Ministry of Agriculture attended a much needed training in central farm, Cayo District on Monday. The aim is to teach coordinators how to enter and use data that is collected from a database that has accessible information from not only Belize but 7 other Central American countries. Corozal Coordinator in the Ministry of Agriculture, Barry Palacio says the data will help with the development and movement of both corn and beans within the country.


Screen_Shot_2014-12-18_at_7.59.21_PMBarry Palacio - Corozal Coordinator M.O. A


“We all gathered in Central Farm to receive training on what we call a regional observatory, which in effect is a depository or repository of information like a library in which a lot of work being done on corn and beans in term of research is being posted so that people from across Central American region have free access to information that is there like I mentioned earlier so that whatever we want to find out as it relates to corn and bean then we go to the Web page of that institution and if you could focus on the webpage we could see the website that we could all go to and access information at it relates to these two basic grains.”


Victor Castillo - Reporter


“When we are talking of these two basic grains, you are talking about going to the website and the data that we can get out of it, how many countries are we talking about that are enrolled or have access to input their data into this website?”


Barry Palacio - Corozal Coordinator M.O. A


“Actually we have the seven countries in Central America and Belize being a member of this group in that, the umbrella organization is the Central American Agricultural Council and through the network ad this basically captures the initiative in which Central American countries come together and through that initiative then the information gathered from all the different countries are stored at this particular website for corn and beans specifically.”

While Belizeans consume a high percentage of corn and beans in their diet, the Ministry of Agriculture sees the necessity to assist farmers to increase productivity.


Barry Palacio - Corozal Coordinator M.O. A


“Corn and beans are two basic commodities that we as Belizeans consume quite a lot so whatever we can do to produce the productivity or to enhance the shelf life of  these two important crops then we will be assisting farmers, specifically I think that we have made some strides in the area of productivity of corn and beans and in the case of corn especially we have been using the opium pollinated corn in that we believe that it will assist farmers in being able to produce and at the same time save their own seed. We facilitate high quality corn seeds and beans seeds to farmers and we promote best practices in the case of planting distance, the planting density, the number of seeds used so that farmers get the optimal production from these two important crops so this is an ongoing project that the ministry has and is being complimented with access to additional information that other countries have been accumulating.”


One the challenge corn and bean farmers face is the storage of their harvest. Inefficient systems of harvesting and drying, high relative humidity and inefficient practices of storage have led to losses up to 70% in stored grains.

 

Barry Palacio - Corozal Coordinator M.O. A


“Post-harvest loses in that it is another huge area in which we feel that can be improve in that you produce a crop but at the same time when you store the grains weeble especially attack these crops and we want to introduce simple and affordable technology which will help farmers to save their extras, their surplus without suffering heavy losses caused by storage pests and the potential for Belize to export these two commodities is great, corn is being exported to Jamaica, it is being exported to Guatemala as well as beans to other countries so we feel that it is an area where farmers can first feed themselves and whatever surplus can be sold.”


Officials at the Ministry of Agriculture hope to keep the project ongoing since the system is complimented with access to additional information from other Central American countries.

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