Corn and soybean farmers in communities in Southern Orange Walk say that minimal rain since June may land them in the poorhouse if help is not forthcoming.
According to Indian Creek Cooperative farmer, Jacob Harms, the 141 farmers in his group desperately need GOB’s intervention, or all farming in that area will cease, sooner rather than later.
The reality is that farmers who survive through selling corn to mills in Blue Creek and Shipyard are struggling to survive after massive losses due to unpredictable rain patterns and unseasonable droughts.
Harms told the Reporter that “2012 was the worst year for us, when we lost 90 percent of our crops. 2013 was better, but in 2014 we were only able to harvest 48,000 bags of corn in total, when we planted enough to yield 250,000 bags. Each bag of corn, weighing 100 pounds, sells for $20 – $25, which means in 2014 farmers in that Cooperative lost well over $4M.
Nobody can confirm whether climate change is responsible, but Harms, who has been a farmer for 26 years, claims that since 2012 the weather has been impossible to predict.
So what’s the answer for these farmers? Well, the most obvious seems to be irrigating the fields, which then does away with the need to depend on unpredictable rains.
Of the 4,000 acres of corn planted this year, 400 acres are irrigated by specialized equipment. But according to Harms, “it’s not that simple. The irrigation equipment can handle between 120-160 acres of corn or soybean, but it costs in the region of $300,000.
“We’re really down right now, and we just can’t do it without help.”
That help, it is hoped, will come in the form of incentives, tax breaks or even subsidies from GOB – what this group is calling farm-friendly policies.
Harms points out that currently even though irrigation equipment is zero-rated, at the border they must pay GST upfront and then GOB pays it back. That system hasn’t worked well, these farmers claim, since their colleagues in Blue Creek have been waiting for that GST repayment for three years.
Harms says that he and representatives from the group have personally visited Minister of Agriculture Gaspar Vega to ask for assistance, but so far none has been forthcoming … not even an approach to try and find a solution.
The farmers also make the point that the farmers in Orange Walk South produce most of the grain in the country, and so deserve the attention of government. Corn, for example, is used not only as food, but as feed for animals. The shortage of corn has driven the cost up to consumers. And the scarcity threatens to raise the cost of other basic items, from chickens to beef.
Currently, the farmers face imminent loss in the millions, and there is no sign of rain. Harms says that only GOB intervention, in some form or fashion, can save them. If there is none soon, then they face certain financial ruin.