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potatoEarlier in the week we told you about the concerns of Potato farmers from the village of San Carlos in having to incur substantial loss in this year’s potato crop due to a saturation of the imported product in the local market.

Yesterday stakeholders of the potato industry, including Farmers from the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts, Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, BAHA representatives, the Cooperative Department and Potato Importers met in Belmopan to chart a way forward in this year’s crop production. During yesterday’s meeting stakeholders got the opportunity to discuss the amount of product currently on the ground, ways in which the product can be marketed to ensure a better demand and supply ratio, the calendarization of the product by different areas to cover the three month season and other concerns surrounding production.

Barry Palacio- District Agriculture Coordinator-OW

“At yesterday’s meeting we looked at the current potato crop in the ground and we estimate that there is an approximate 2 million pounds of potato to be harvested and this translates into something like three months of marketing in that the national demand for potato is around we estimate 200,000 pounds per week so that being said we look at how we could best market the potato, so in that meeting we also had importers who buys when there is no local production they import potatoes and there were present at the meeting and they expressed their willingness to buy from the famers so in terms of marketing we made that link farmers with sellers, we look at calendarization in that not all the potato crop will be coming in all at the same time we have some from San Carlos coming first along with lower Barton Creek then Upper Barton Creek and Spring Field so these areas will allow for a schedule marketing for the potato crop so that there should be no clash in the market the proposed prices around $75 per the hundred pound bag and that will then translate into $90 wholesale and at the market places should be around $1.25 a pound for potatoes.”

While Farmers from San Carlos shared concerns of incurring loss in their product since imported potato remains in the local market, District Agriculture Coordinator for Orange Walk, Barry Palacio, explained that the system which has been put in place ensures that the demand for the product is met, and until this week importation was needed to meet the almost two hundred thousand pounds needed to supply the entire country.

Barry Palacio - District Agriculture Coordinator-OW

“The market consumes an estimated 200,000 pounds of potato, at the beginning of the crop the local production cannot sustain the market demand and along that the potato that are on the market is the final amount that were approved through the import permit so that as the market consumes this potato the local one will come into full effect in other words beginning next week the local production of potatoes can meet the market demand so when I say that 200,000 pounds per week will be available at the market, the local farmers can sustain the national demand. It was based on forecast and many time the forecast can be either before or after it has to do with the weather conditions so that to make it a little precise we decided to set up this council in that it consist of farmers and they are the ones dealing directly with the crop as well as importers and personnel from the ministry of agriculture as it is I am the national focal point for potatoes now so hereafter from the Orange Walk Office we will be coordinating at a national basis the potato crop.”

Another concern for farmers had to sell their product at a lower cost which would also translate to a loss after production costs have been factored in. According to Palacio, a proposal was put on the table by importers to buy from local producers at seventy five cents per pound. But is this a fair price?

Ms. Norma Ruiz – Reporter

“The proposed price for importers to purchase these potatoes will be at $75 per hundred pound would you say this is affair price for producers considering their cost of production and other expenses?”

Barry Palacio- District Agriculture Coordinator-OW

“Today thinking it’s a fair price that we want the Belizean consumers to participate and be able to purchase the local crop so that at $1.25 a pound at the market place I think it is a competitive price and given the quality of our local potato there should be no marketing issue so this is something that we have put in place to facilitate the sale of the two expected types of potatoes. The national demand for potatoes if we look at 200,000 pounds per week would translate to something almost like 5 million pounds and when we look at that we think that 2 million pounds is not nearly what the country demands but it is a bigger crop than usual but there is still room for increase production but again it has to do with storage, it has to do with a number of things that needs to be put in place in that the potato crop can only be produced  within a certain time frame.”

We will have more on the potato crop season in tomorrow’s newscast as we visit farmers from the village of San Carlos.

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