Features — 12 December 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Food for fuel swap

BELIZE CITY–The PetroCaribe accord between Belize and Venezuela apparently has a dubious future, in light of Venezuela’s economic crisis, but Belize may be in a very good position to partner with its friendly ally in South America to supply much needed basic commodities while providing a framework for us to counter our own economic challenges, such as shrinking export earnings against a growing import bill.

The way the PetroCaribe deal is structured, Belize does not have to repay Venezuela in cash but it can barter with goods and/or services. Belize can repay the portion of the bill due in 90 days with export commodities such as agricultural products. However, both parties will have to agree on what that export basket will be.

Belize and Venezuela to meet Dec. 17 on PetroCaribe

To date, Belize and Venezuela have not hammered out a formal export agreement under the PetroCaribe accord, but indications are that this will change in 2015.

At an event held by the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) at the Radisson today, to look at expanding Belize’s export base, we asked Mike Singh, chairman of BELTRAIDE, whether this is one of the areas being considered either under the Export Belize initiative or some other program being run by BELTRAIDE.

Singh informed us that Belize and Venezuela are scheduled to meet next Wednesday, December 17, to discuss a mechanism through which Belize can pay some of the cash portion of its fuel bill with qualifying products that Belize can ship to Venezuela in lieu of cash.

Singh said that paying Venezuela for fuel with exports will stimulate production in Belize and save foreign exchange.

He pointed to Guyana as one of the countries which is currently using this mechanism to help settle its fuel bill with Venezuela.

According to Singh, food products are on top of the list, and these include grains, chickens and fruit juices.

“All the things we produce can qualify,” he said.

He also said that Belize could sell services to Venezuela. A potential for good exchange, Singh said, is the provision of training in the English language, in exchange for Venezuelan fuel.

He said that Belize is putting together a basket of export products to present at the bilateral meeting on December 17.

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