Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2022. 7:20 p.m. CST.
By Ruben Morales Iglesias:
“Agriculture is our front line in the fight against poverty,” Prime Minister John Briceño said Tuesday at the inauguration of a renovated export cattle corral in Shipyard, Orange Walk District, which will accommodate up to 800 head of cattle worth approximately $850,000. exported weekly to Mexico.
Prime Minister Briceño has said his government needs to invest more in agriculture as it strives to reduce the level of poverty in the country.
“We want to continue working with agriculture. Agriculture can continue to play a vital role in the development of this country,” he said, addressing an audience that included Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai, Foreign Minister, Trade and Immigration Eamon Courtenay, Minister of State for the Ministry of Finance Christopher Coye, representatives from the Mexican import company SuKarne, members of the Belize Cattle Producers Association and the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Belizean cattle ranchers, among others.
“Agriculture is our front line in the fight against poverty because when our people live in rural areas they can’t sell their chicken, they can’t sell their livestock, they can’t sell their vegetables, what do- they ? They must leave their land; they have to leave their farms and then they go to live in urban areas to try to find a job. And when they can’t find jobs, we create even bigger problems in our urban areas.
The prime minister said his government must continue to work with farmers in Belize to ensure they can access affordable credit from organizations like the DFC locally and through international organizations like as the World Bank, the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) and the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank). He said they would also look to “our other wealthy friendly countries who can lend us money at very low interest rates so that our farmers can afford to borrow, invest and help us to develop this economy.
Stating that he too is a cattle rancher, he said he was happy to see the ranching industry making progress in achieving Plan Belize.
Prime Minister Briceño said that when his party leaders were working on Plan Belize, they were first told that the poverty level in the country was 40%, but then they discovered it was up to 60%. .
“That means that out of ten Belizeans, six of us are poor. This is unacceptable.
He said the goal was to reduce poverty by 50% over the next ten years. But he said that was not done by handing over a check.
“You don’t eliminate poverty with handouts. You eliminate poverty by developing the economy, by creating opportunities for our people, by creating opportunities for our farmers,” he said.
The Prime Minister said Belize’s sugar cane growers are going through a very difficult time as the profit they make from a ton of sugar cane is minimal. On the other hand, he underlined that the gains made by the livestock industry, which has just under 6,000 cattle farmers (slightly more than sugar cane producers), must be supported because they contribute to reducing the level of poverty.
“[Minister Mai] pointed out that the average cattle farmer [has] 30 to 50 head of cattle. If our farmers can sell 20 to 25 head of cattle a year, that’s at least $20,000 more than they will earn. They are no longer poor. So we have to find a way to ensure that it can trickle down to other farmers, not just in the north but across the country. This is Plan Belize in action,” he noted.
“This ensures that our government has a full and deep understanding and commitment so that we can reduce poverty,” Prime Minister Briceño concluded.
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