By Alexis R. Milan
The Government of Japan this week signed a grant agreement for US $102,029 ($204,000 Bze. for a Japanese owned company in Belize to grow and export high quality sea island cotton.
Japan’s Consular Representative in Belize, Hiromoto Omay said that the grant would be used to purchase high clearance tractors and planters.
Omaya said he hopes the contribution will help to rejuvenate and expand the production of Sea Island Cotton in Belize.
The expanded production of Sea Island Cotton in Belize is a win-win development for Belize and for and Japan, because the demand for Sea Island Cotton inJapan is far greater than the world can supply.
Kensuke Inoue, ICA Belize director and the man who revived the production of Sea Island Cotton in Belize, explained that the needs of cotton farmers are far different from those of cane farmers. This is the reason why the Japanese Embassy has decided to share their extensive knowledge of processing methods by providing machinery to harvest the high-quality cotton.
Kensuke revealed that his company has begun work with six local farmers from Buena Vista, Little Belize, Shipyard and Bomba and is encouraging other farmers to become involved with growing cotton.
Kensuke said that since last year he has received more than 1000 pounds of dried cotton and this year local producers are hoping to produce more than 30,000 pounds of dried cotton worth some $160,000.
Kensuke said that because of ideal weather conditions and soil quality, Belize has the potential to become a leading cotton producer in the world. Expanding the industry would be beneficial to the local economy, Inoue explained, not just in terms of contributing to the country’s exports, but also because the harvesting of the cotton must be done by hand so as not to damage the fibers.
This will create more employment opportunities for local communities, he said.
A typical cotton field would need between 150-200 cotton pickers, Inoue explained and workers can flexibly choose the days they wish to work . Over the past year since the start of the project the harvesters have been primarily women, he said.