Belize gives relief to farmers, promises lower food prices

BELMOPAN, Belize, April 29, 2008 – The Belize government has announced tax and duty relief to farmers to reduce the cost of local food production and by extension, reduce food prices for consumers.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced this among the main measures to address the rising cost of living affecting not only Belize but countries across the world.

“We will look particularly closely at the imported inputs that go into agricultural production with a view to eliminating or lowering duties on these so that we might lower the cost of production,” he said.

He said government would also provide farmers with expanded access to credit.

“When we give them access to credit as well as lower their costs of production, two things will happen: The prices that they will sell their products for in the local market will go down, and so there will be a direct, dramatic decrease in the cost of food items with respect to local production in this country,” Mr Barrow said.

The Belize leader said at the same time, the country’s consumer protection agency would be expanded and a new Consumer Protection Act passed to ensure that the savings made by farmers as a result of the relief and assistance are passed on to consumer by way of lower prices. He said price controls will be implemented.

Mr Barrow however urged consumers to shift their consumption patterns, noting that his administration had no intention on lowering duties on imported food “that’s not very nutritious, not very healthy and which constitutes a drain on foreign exchange”.

“There will be a precisely targeted series of interventions, but we encourage our people to consume more of what we produce, to shift their consumption patterns,” he said.

The Prime Minister, who also indicated that the country was looking to expand the production of basic grains, said increased production would allow Belize to develop and in some cases increase its export capacity.

He said that already El Salvador has requested beans to be produced for their market and indicated that they could take some 40 000 tonnes from Belize.

“So, in addition to lower prices here at home, our farmers will be earning much needed foreign exchange. Their standard of living will increase, the country will benefit from the inflows of foreign exchange, and I’m saying in terms of the basics for our people, the prices will go down,” Mr Barrow indicated.