Sunday, June 21, 2009



By Ray Auxillou, June 2009

The last three years has seen advances in agricultural crop diversity and a revolution in methodologies of production of vegetables. We now have clear understandings, of soil technology, of seasonal patterns for various vegetable growing, flooded bed type soil based irrigation systems. Hydroponics has worked in both ebb and flow, capital intensive production and hand applied systems feeding nutrients and water. While experimentation is going on, we know now how to produce crops better than ever before. The main kinks in the system is the choice of varieties for different seasonal parameters. That is a subject for a different paper.
The problem is; as more people wish to go into import substitution growing of vegetables and market gardening, the local population and the markets are insufficient to handle the possible capacity of supply on a year round basis. There are already over production problems. Mostly when you coincide with small farmer rainy season type soil fed crops, versus those using irrigation.
It is now time to move to PHASE TWO of the vegetable production of crops and make export crop orientation growing take over. This means locating foreign markets, the type of market and the type of processing, packaging and shipping methodologies.
MARKETING, PROCESSING AND PACKAGING ARE a new phase we must enter into and how we do that is open to debate. There are a couple of examples that are currently successful. The export of papaya, the export of habeneros, the processing, packing and exporting of vegetable products like Marie Sharpes hot sauce. There is the export of corn and beans.
Identifying the products made from vegetables is part of the next phase. Identifying the market is also important. Vegetables are perishable and so probably processed foods are needed for export, as in the example of Marie Sharpes hot sauces and packaged chips as one example. The history of Marie Sharpe can be found on the internet and as we read of her success story, it is evident that first she grew more habeneros than she could use. That is a typical commercial farmers story. However what followed next was an entrepreneurial innovative spirit that tried different experiments to identify a method of utilizing her crop and processing it, so she would not lose it and sell it over a longer period of time. Her bottled hot sauce drew the attention of someone in the USA who wanted to buy and import it and from there the success story ran away. It is still ongoing.
What is notable is that the export value of her production was instigated by a foreign importer/buyer. We cannot wait that long for things to happen with other vegetables. It behooves the nation to find a way to seek both the buyers and importers in foreign lands. How to do this is the debate and if the government wishes to boost the economy, they have to figure a ways and means of making this happen. Normally, always when things are done by bureaucrats, nothing really ever happens, though we get lots of nice sounding reports from different departments. Another more effective way must be found and it is possible that one avenue of approach would be to invite technical assistance from China, Canada, the EU and other markets. There are probably other approaches and probably we can try different methods of locating markets, buyers and product packing and processing needs. At any rate, the continued growth of vegetable production in Belize as a component of development and economic assistance has arrived. We need to get it organized and working before the September winter plantings. Time to get some technical assistance in marketing of the vegetables we can mass produce in Belize. We know we can produce it now, but selling is different for export markets. How we go about this, is obviously a CABINET policy decision. If you wait for the population to grow, or private sector development, you will lose years of possible diversification and exporting earnings.

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