BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 1, 2021– This week, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) received $280,000 BZ from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to aid in the eradication of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly from Belize. The US Chargé d’ Affaires, ad interim, Keith Gilges, handed over these funds to the CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise, Servulo Baeza, on Tuesday. According to a joint press release issued by BAHA and the USDA, the funds will be used to “pay for equipment, supplies and wages as a part of an ongoing program to eradicate one of the world’s most destructive pests, the Mediterranean Fruit Fly from Belize.”
The release goes on to explain that the Belize citrus industry was valued at approximately $20 million BZD in 2020. However, BAHA estimates that the medfly population has caused damages and losses of up to about BZD $7 million in the industry. The pest reportedly entered the country initially via contaminated fruits being transported illegally across our borders. Since 1987, however, the country has carried out aerial spraying, quarantine checkpoints, and manual inspections of vulnerable areas in order to reduce the presence of the medfly in Belize.
The joint release quoted the US Chargé d’ Affaires, who said, “The medfly program is one of the oldest and longest-running cooperative United States-Belize programs and it has proven itself highly effective. The joint USDA-BAHA program – which incorporates surveillance, interdiction, quarantine, and elimination efforts – protects the sustainability and profitability of one of Belize’s primary agricultural exports. These efforts play a critical role in defending Belize’s environment and economy.” The program has existed since 1977 when the then Ministry of Agriculture signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the USDA to implement a medfly surveillance program in Belize.
Subsequent to the handing-over ceremony, Hernan Zetina, the Deputy Technical Director for Plant Health at BAHA, spoke with the media to explain how the donated funds have been used.
“The funds are used in order for us to carry out activities and set out in our plan. Every year we develop our plan along with the United States Department of Agriculture, and so they give us monies, specifically for line items. For example, they provide us with a vehicle every year; they give us certain amounts of money specifically for eradication activities. Whenever we have outbreaks, we use that money to carry out our measures to ensure that the medfly doesn’t become established here in Belize. And we have been able to – with these funds and funds from BAHA, and funds from the Ministry of Agriculture through the Ministry of Finance of Belize – we’ve been able to ensure that this pest stays out of Belize,” he said.