By Marion Ali
Belize’s budding Sea Island Cotton industry, as it is known, has received additional assistance from the Government of Japan.
On Tuesday, Japan handed over two tractors worth $205,000 to ICA Belize, a local cotton growing company owned by Japanese-belizean businessman Kensuke Inoue, under the aegis of the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security projects of Japan.
The gifts complement an ongoing project, which Japan revived to benefit both countries. Japan’s demand for cotton far surpasses the world’s supply and Belize can earn much-needed cash by exporting the product.
Cotton crop yields are much higher than any other agricultural product in Belize, including sugar cane, but cotton farming requires different kinds of equipment. Hence, the Japanese, who are knowledgeable in the harvesting and processing of cotton, has offered this kind of support, as well as the equipment to produce cotton.
Belize’s weather conditions and soil quality bodes well for Belize’s ability to produce top quality cotton. In a productive year, the country can produce 30,000 pounds of dried cotton, which represents $160,000 in earnings from Japan and Europe.
There are six local farmers in Buena Vista, Little Belize, Shipyard and Bomba who are involved in the project.
A year ago, Japan also assisted the industry, which was originally started in 1980 by a US company. But the Japanese has, since 2000, been managing the industry, through a cooperative called ICA.
Cotton harvesting is tedious and laborious because it must be done by hand so as not to damage the fibers. The development of the industry provides for job creation, with between 150-200 cotton pickers per cotton field.