It is no secret that the Agriculture sector has suffered a loss of more than $25 million worth in production due to the drought currently affecting the country. That amount is expected to mount since the drought is expected to last until the month of November.  It is also no secret that the cries of farmers for help went unheard even after the media exposed their situation. The first to bring the problem to our attention was P.U.P Orange Walk South Standard Bearer Jose Abelardo Mai. He did so in hope that farmers receive the necessary help.


As we have reported before, due to the drought some farmers have relied on irrigation systems to save the little crop they have left. But that also proved to be expensive even more so since farmers were charged 12.5% GST on irrigation system even though the GST department information indicated that irrigation equipment is zero rated.

The drought situation and its effects were exposed on August 13th by Mai and farmers affected. It was not until September 27th that Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture and his CEO Jose Alpuche held a meeting with affected farmers from Indian Creek and San Carlos Villages and announced that farmers will be awarded a tax exemption on all irrigation systems, DFC will cancel the interest of their loans for this year and they will also be able to refinance their loan in order to continue their farming.


According to Mai, this is pure political gimmick because while the Ministry of Agriculture should have been the first to react to the situation, they were the last ones to do so.


Screen_Shot_2015-10-01_at_8.27.19_PMJose Abelardo Mai- P.U.P Orange Walk South Standard Bearer


“El ministro de agricultura y los executivos del ministerio de agricultura son los últimos en saber que esta condición existía, fue los agricultores con los medios de comunicaciones y sus servidor que salimos y publicamos esta situación y de que la ayuda no era existente para los agricultores en la cámara de representantes en el debate del presupuesto fiscal del 2015 yo indique de que falta de póliza y falta de política para ayudar al productor por ejemplo explicaba yo en el debate de que estaban cobrándole al agricultor 12.5% GST para sistemas de irrigación y eso son para mitigar los efectos de una sequilla entonces por qué le estaban cobrando 12.5% GST al agricultor para importar sistema de riego, el GST office me informó a mí a través de un folleto de que sistema de riego son zero  rated o sea 0% GST pero aun así lo estaban cobrando.”   

       

According to Mai, for the past eight years farmers have been paying GST, some have still not been reimbursed, and the assistance has been zero to none.


Jose Abelardo Mai- P.U.P Orange Walk South Standard Bearer


“Ocho años tiene de que los agricultores están pagando GST ahora 30 días antes de las elecciones no s preocupen no le van a cobrar pero nada ha cambiado yo he hecho eso para los agricultores los primeros sistemas de riego igual tuve que hacer yo llamar a Joe Waight y mandar las copias del invoice para poder traer el sistema libre de GST.”


Carmelita Perez – Reporter


“Entiendo de que hay algunos agricultores de que no han colectado ese GST?”


Jose Abelardo Mai- P.U.P Orange Walk South Standard Bearer


“Si no consigues el wiaver y estas registered con el GST te cobran el GST y te lo deben de devolver en 90 días es la póliza del GST Unit pero un Blue Creek hay hasta dos años que le deben a la gente de Blue Creek eso no ayuda eso es la póliza que no facilita porque no ayuda al campesino porque eso lo que hace es aumentar el costo de producción y eso se lo pasan al consumidor a un pueblo que tenemos 50% de pobreza eso acelera más el nivel de pobreza en el país.”            

The recent assistance came after farmers have lost millions of dollars and one day before the date for General Election was announced. The problem is that the harm is done, there is now way that the losses can be recovered and to make the situation worse, there is no doubt that the consumers will feel the effects of the drought as prices in certain commodities will increase as alluded by CEO Alpuche in a previous interview.


But what has farmers of the south up in arms says Mai, is the fact that the UDP is taking advantage of the help given to gain political mileage and that is just plain wrong.


Jose Abelardo Mai- P.U.P Orange Walk South Standard Bearer


“Me han comentado de que la candidata del UDP ha indicado de que su gobierno de ella esa dándole el sistema de riego al campesino los agricultores me han llamado y me están diciendo Mr. Mai eso es absolutamente no es cierto es falso es mentira están engañando al pueblo para simplemente beneficiarse políticamente eso es mi impulso para el campesino, esos señores que compraron el sistema de riego lo compraron con sus propios recursos y la han importado de Chihuahua México y la van a instalar en Indian Creek y son seis sistemas que han metido y el mismo proceso han seguido mandando la carta a Belmopán y conseguir el waiver de Mr. Joe Waight el financial secretary para que Customs no pueda cobrar ese GST asi que nada ha cambiado asi que la persona que dijo gracias a Dean Barrow, a Gaspar Vega y al CEO son mentirosos están engañando al pueblo.”


According to survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture corn is the hardest hit by the drought with losses of 18 million dollars. Soy bean has seen a loss of 5.5 million dollars, rice 2 million dollars and all indications are that sugar cane will also be affected with production going down as by as much as 25%.

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