Farmers cannot sell their local harvest of 450,000 pounds
Belize City: Thursday 7th February 2019
Potato farmers in San Carlos Village are faced with an excess supply of potatoes and are being forced to sell this perishable commodity at a low market price. There are approximate 450,000 pounds of potatoes being harvested in that northerly village that will go to waste if farmers don’t get a fair wholesale price.
Orange Walk South Representative Abelardo Mai who visited the area to assess the situation told this newspaper that these farmers were up against an unfair situation, especially because potatoes must sell off fast but at a fair market price. Presently, there is a large amount of imported potatoes on the market and farmers find themselves selling at give-away prices in order to break even with their investments and pay off their outstanding loans or seeing their crop rot to waste.
This year local potato farms are yielding an excess supply, but it is a hard sell, especially because the consumer market is saturated with potatoes imported from Mexico. This is the dismal situation local farmers have to deal with every year for the last three years. The Ministry of Agriculture and its Supplies Control Unit has no consideration for our local farmers.
This week a farmer brought 2000 pounds of potatoes to market and only sold off a quarter of his cargo. He returned home with three-quarters of his load because unscrupulous wholesalers are abusing the situation and are only offering as low as 50 cents per pound, which is unfair. Some farmers are compelled to sell off for that miserable price because they have financial obligations pending and must be met.
In the village of San Carlos, there are about 25 farmers facing this situation. They have worked tirelessly on a combined area of 35 acres to yield a higher-quality product but are now facing this unfair struggle of getting a better price for their crop.
In February of 2017, potato and onion farmers faced the very same situation with their products. However, this year this government continues to issue import permits for potatoes and other home-grown commodities to well-connected cronies. Farmers are still waiting what the then Minister of Agriculture Godwin Hulse promised. He committed to build a storage system along with the establishment of a price commitment to benefit farmers. To date this has not materialized. Just another broken UDP promise.