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Livestock producers “elated” at waived cattle import duty

HighlightsLivestock producers “elated” at waived cattle import duty

Mexico’s decision to waive the 15% tariff on all cattle imported from Belize will allow the country’s livestock industry to grow tremendously, says the BLPA.

By Khaila Gentle

BELIZE CITY, Wed. May 11, 2022

The Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA) has expressed elation in response to Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s recent decision to waive the 15% import duty on all cattle being exported from Belize to Mexico. According to the association, as a result of the groundbreaking decision, the cattle industry will now be able to grow “leaps and bounds” as livestock producers continue to experience “times like never before”. The BLPA also noted that local cattle farmers will now be able to further maximize their revenues.

“With the decision to waive the 15% tariff and the efforts by Belizean government officials to streamline the export process and reduce the costs, especially for physical cattle inspection by the Mexican veterinarians, it is expected that the price offered to Belizean cattle farmers will increase in the short run,” wrote the BLPA in a press release issued on Tuesday. 

The announcement was made on Saturday, May 7, during President López Obrador’s brief visit to Belize. Before departing the country, the Obrador gave a statement to the media at the Laing Building in Belize City.

“We have just made an agreement with the Prime Minister that Mexico will remove import duties on products that Belize can export to our country,” he said, further explaining that those agricultural products would include cattle.

In his message, President Obrador also spoke of the importance of Central American countries  uniting as a region in order to build economic strength.

“Only in this way, a united, integrated, twinned America, will we be able to face the turbulence of the world economy and, most importantly, the geopolitical danger that the economic decline of the United States represents for the entire world compared to other regions, especially Asia,” he stated.

“We are going to bring true free trade between our nations,” he added.

The Belize Livestock Producers Association has called the decision made by President Lopez Obrador a strategic one, adding that it resulted from continuous lobbying efforts by the Government of Belize in collaboration with the BLPA, led by the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Honorable Jose Abelardo Mai, alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Honorable Eamon Courtenay, and the Prime Minister of Belize.

Prime Minister John Briceno also spoke with local media about the tariff break being given to local cattle farmers, expounding on the work that went into reaching the historic agreement.

“It’s very historic what took place on Saturday. You may remember, when we were in Government between 1998 under Said Musa to 2008 we worked very hard to get rice into Mexico. Prime Minister Musa at that time met with the then President, we met with the Foreign Minister, we met with the Ministers of trade and we did everything—we spent a lot of money, government, trying to get the Blue Creek rice. But they have a very, the bureaucracy and the lobby that they had in Mexico was too strong for us to break through,” he stated.

The Prime Minister, who commented that he has always seen the value in having Mexico—with a population of over 125 million—as a trading partner, says they had a trade meeting with President Obrador last year which proved fruitful and led to the recent breakthrough.

“At that meeting, actually, we were in a tent, just himself, his Foreign Minister, myself, our Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay, and both ambassadors. We should have been in a twenty- minute meeting; we ended up spending more than an hour. So, I was talking to him about Belize and what we are doing, that if we can remove these taxes it will create great opportunities for us,” said Briceño.

And when President Obrador and Prime Minister Briceno met a second time, they spoke even further, particularly about Belize’s amnesty program through which it will be legalizing the status of about 40,000 irregular immigrants. According to Briceño, he believes that discussion played a significant role in prompting the Mexican president’s decision.

“I believe that had a lot to do with his change of mind, because when he said, ‘you know, that’s admirable what you are doing.’ He said, ‘we wish more countries would do what you are doing’—what we are doing here in Belize. And then, he started to ask us what are the products that we have. I said we do rice, we do beans, we do pork, we do chicken, we do beef, we do shrimp, we do fish,” he said.

President Obrador told Briceno that Mexico could help Belize create opportunities for its farmers, allowing them to remain in rural areas rather than having to go to urban areas, where jobs are limited, or the United States. 

Previously, Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Jose Mai had referred to the signing of the trade agreement between the two countries as “one of the greatest moments in the history of both nations.”

Shortly after the announcement was made, Minister Mai wrote on his social media page that the decision would radically change the future of Belize’s agriculture and that Minister Eamon Courtenay and his team had worked for days to achieve an acceptable trade agreement that would benefit local producers.

Since the establishment of cross-border trade with Mexico, Belize’s cattle farmers have had two major export outlets for their product, the second of the two being Guatemala, which contributed to the majority of the BZ $55 million that has been earned from the export of cattle since 2020. In 2022 alone, a total of 1,442 head of cattle, valued at $1.7 million, have been exported to Mexico so far—something which the BLPA refers to as a milestone achievement for local livestock producers. 

Back in March of this year, several hundred head of cattle were formally exported from Orange Walk to Mexico after farmers from the district sold their cattle to the Mexican company SuKarne.

While all export duties will be waived, cattle being sent to Mexico must still meet all necessary requirements, including being vaccinated and tested for ectoparasites and diseases like brucellosis as well as being quarantined for at least 21days prior to exportation.

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