According to the Statistical Institute of Belize, the agricultural sector, which is the backbone for our country’s revenues, had once again reduced its contribution to Belize’s Gross Domestic Product. This time, it was a much more significant decrease of 3.4%, from 2010 to 2011. One is left to ponder, how can we now address such dilemma?
With this sector being one of outmost importance to our country, necessary attention must be given, particularly by the primary stakeholders. Whether we are talking about the producers, processors, health authority, NGO’s, policy makers, or just the everyday consumer, we must ensure a quick rebound of this sector.
As producers, capitalize on your land, embrace capacity building and reap the best fruits from your land.
One way to do this is by engaging in multi-cropping, that is, cultivating two or more crops in the same space, at the same time. Multi-cropping can be done with tomatoes and cabbages, ocro and yams, sweet pepper and cucumber, or even lime and oranges; by the end of the day, these will lead to the intensification of land use; and division of production cost between these products.
Apart from farmers playing their role, it should in the best interest of policy makers, to provide positive incentives to these farmers, in order for them to be able to increase their production. One such incentive can be in the form of land: increasing producers’ access to land, would certainly expand these producers cultivated area and increase their level of production, which will create employment for Belizeans.
Additionally, proper agricultural infrastructures, such as roads, tractors, bulldozers, better drainage facility, and storage facilities for these farmers, must be put in place.
Having such infrastructure in place, particularly the roads, will lead to the supply chain side going through a smooth sailing process; hence, reducing the blemish, and blackhead on these vegetables and fruits.
Imagine these products having to travel twenty miles in the pan of a pickup truck, on a long, rough, and dilapidated road, in order to reach at our markets. Then, upon arrival, the products are bruised, discoloured, or simply lacking taste; as a rational consumer one would certainly refuse to purchase such products; hence, the products would turn up as loss for these producers.
Along with that, investment must be done in extensive agricultural research, so as to inform producers of mechanisms and techniques that can be utilized in the production process to make them more efficient and effective in cultivating certain crops.
Additionally, such an investment would allow farmers to engage in better forecasting, in terms of weather; increasing production yield; combating of diseases that plants are susceptible to; improving strategies to control these diseases, as well as, identifying the best conditions and time of the year for cultivation of certain crops.
In case you are wondering why produce more, then the answer is for export purposes.
Companies, particularly from United States and Canada, have continuously been demanding tropical fruits and vegetables from Belize; but, due to small production quantity, we are unable to meet that demand.
By having access to these international markets, our producers will be creating more jobs, as well as increasing our foreign exchange; hence, contributing more to our Gross Domestic Product.