Photo: Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise and the Trinidad and Tobago delegation meeting in Belmopan
by Kristen Ku
BELMOPAN, Thurs. Feb. 1, 2024
Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon, accompanied by a delegation of approximately 34 individuals including representatives from 24 businesses, met with representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise (MAFSE) at the National Showgrounds in Belmopan today.
The visit, part of a broader trade mission to Belize spanning from January 31 to February 3, aims to strengthen commercial relationships between the two countries.
Notably, Trinidad and Tobago are already key trading partners with Belize, exporting a range of manufactured goods and importing Belizean products like raw sugar cane, orange and grapefruit juice concentrate.
The visit seeks to explore further potential for trade in products such as red kidney beans, black eyed peas, coconuts, rice, shrimp and lobsters. In an interview with the Trinidadian Minister, she spoke on the keen interest in these Belizean products, given that they are unable to grow a large supply themselves.
“Trinidad & Tobago does not have a large agricultural sector because of the size of our country. We’re very small compared to Belize. Belize might be four times the size of Trinidad and Tobago. And why I say that is because we are our own manufacturers. So naturally, whilst we’re trying to grow those things ourselves in Trinidad and Tobago, we’re not in a position where we have enough to supply our own manufacturers, and therefore we have to look to external markets,” she said.
Given that both countries are CARICOM states, she expressed a preference for regional trade where shipping duties are more economical.
For Belize, however, marketing to CARICOM has been anything but smooth sailing, according to the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai.
“Belize can produce more [red kidney beans] given the markets. Why markets have been shifting is because of the difficulty that we have in marketing to the CARICOM. For example, this year, our red kidney beans production will be just enough for our local consumption. Why? Because marketing to the CARICOM has become a problem for the last 20 years.”
“I think we should encourage trade within the region. The problem is when there’s technical barriers [to] trade, and now the different barriers to trade within the region. And of course, one of the major concerns and challenges would be the matter of logistics … it is logistically just difficult to get to these markets,” explained Mai.
Despite these challenges, the ministers noted the significant growth in trade between the two countries, from 7 million to 15 million US dollars since 2003.
The meeting concluded with an invitation from Trinidad and Tobago for Belize to participate in an upcoming agriculture exhibition in August, which Mai accepted.