Letters — 01 April 2014

Dear Editor,

It is time for citrus growers to demand world market prices for their fruit. For years, Belizean citrus growers have been paid prices which are much lower than the world market price for citrus juices. The citrus processors in Belize have traditionally produced citrus concentrates, which sell for much lower prices on the world market than the ready-to-drink juices produced in consumer-ready packs, such as the “Tetra Pak”. These types of packs have the advantage that they can be distributed and stored without the need for refrigeration.

Over 85% of the world trade in citrus juices is in these single-strength juices and not in concentrate form. Yet, we in Belize continue to produce concentrated juices. The citrus processing plant in Stann Creek has all the equipment necessary, including the packaging machines and extra storage capacity, to produce single-strength orange juice.

Yet, the equipment is not being used. We have a juice which is world renowned for its color and taste, and we are not taking advantage of this. The Central American market is wide open to our juices, particularly Guatemala, where we can export duty-free.

Florida citrus growers are receiving $26.40 per box for oranges this year, whilst we expect to be paid $10 for the same quality fruit. (http://www.theledger.com/article/2014140329840)

This is totally unacceptable. Banana growers, sugar farmers, shrimp farmers, fishermen, fish farmers, cacao growers, corn farmers, bean exporters, and other agricultural exporters all receive world market prices for their product. Why shouldn’t citrus growers?

If we are to save our industry from Citrus Greening, we have to provide many more inputs for our groves. If we do this, we can keep production up on our existing groves while a solution is found for citrus greening. Researchers in Florida are having success with GMO trees which, after 5 years, are showing total resistance to greening. Another 5 years of research is needed to prove the concept. It is the only hope on the horizon so far. To provide the extra inputs, growers need much higher prices.

It is time that growers demand that their citrus associations stop the fighting and concentrate on working with the processor to provide the higher prices.

Frank Redmond

(Ed. NOTE: Mr. Redmond’s citrus greening thesis is completely contrary to Bill Lindo’s. Someone is right, and someone is wrong. The sooner we find out who is right and who is wrong, the better for the Belizean citrus industry. Again, the whole GMO (“genetically modified”) argument is bigger than Belizean citrus, or even Belizean agriculture. The conversation has major national implications. Belize needs to know what the region and the rest of the world are saying. Belize needs advice.)

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