Screen_Shot_2016-11-22_at_7.58.44_PMA few years ago, the small onion industry in Belize appeared chaotic and counter-productive when close to $1.5 million worth of locally-produced onions were left to rot on fields as the imported vegetable from Holland swarmed the market. The Belize Marketing and Development Corporation was blamed for the disaster since they were the ones who imported the product, and in turn, they blamed local producers for early harvesting. Back then, the farmers communicated to BMDC directly, via emails which could suddenly disappear or go undelivered. Stakeholders in the industry have had to learn lessons the very hard way, and today we spoke to Agriculture officials who invited onion farmers to an important meeting where planning and coordination will be the focus.


Fulton Palacio, District Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture


“During that meeting we have our farmers from Orange Walk, Corozal and Belize District along with BMDC, Customs and BAHA, we look at the Onion crop  and we will be coordinating especially the importation of Onions with BMDC so that based on the information that we gather we will be able to determine when BMDC will exit the market in other words it will stop importing Onions and we will allow locally produced Onions to reach the market place so that the farmers can market their Onions without any clash with imported Onions so in a nutshell this is a support that the government of Belize provides for farmers so that they can sell their Onions without interference or competition from the BMDC.”  

                         

According to Fulton Palacio, the District Agriculture Coordinator in Ministry of Agriculture, the goal of the Agriculture Department is to organise the sector in a way that benefits all local stakeholders. Palacio emphasized that if the kinks can be worked out through proper communication, farmers can improve their yields and even increase their revenue margins.


Screen_Shot_2016-11-22_at_7.58.53_PMFulton Palacio, District Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture


“Our goal is to (1) organize the sector, I believe that with an organized farmers based we will be able to avoid what I call unhealthy competition, as it is we all know that Onions is seasonal and whenever the peak production comes in farmers compete amongst themselves which is very unhealthy and part of the rational is that everybody wants to enter the market space first so that farmers try to plant as early as possible with that in mind, however, when the peak of the local production comes in farmers tend to reduce their price in an effort dump their product and in the end the gain the least amount of money as oppose as to the potential input that they could gain if the sector is properly organized so I say that we need to work more in terms of organization of the farmers and for that we have to have buy in from the farmers, they have to see it as beneficial for themselves in first instance and then as government institutions we provide support, I must say that in the case of the Orange Walk district the group of San Carlos they function as a cooperative, our farmers from Little Belize they work as a cooperative and then the rest of Corozal is what we need to really work with so they could become more organize and function in the same capacity.”


Fulton Palacio, District Agriculture Coordinator, Ministry of Agriculture


“We feel that it can grow and Belize being a part of CARICOM well it is another undertaking looking at the export market but our effort is geared primarily at satisfying the local demand then looking at other possibilities in terms of value adding I think that is another direction that we can take but again there had to be a strategic planning process so that we could realize these goals, and again I must stress that we need to work with farmers and they need to see the or share the felt need so that this could be accomplished, I think experiences in the past have given us bad previous experiences have contributed to the fact that farmers are skeptical and they quite afraid of risking undertaking and working as a group in that they have had bad experiences in the past but we feel that it has to be put behind, it is anew day and there are new realities and only by having that collective approach we will be able to transform the sector.”


Onion production for the country originates in Corozal, Orange Walk and the Belize Districts. It is estimated that the industry has an estimated value of $2.5 million with production of 1.5 million.

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