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A worker for the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association harvesting sugar cane by hand. (Photo: Fair Trade)

Sugar cane farmers in Belize get aid from CDB

A worker for the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association harvesting sugar cane by hand. (Photo: Fair Trade)

The Caribbean Development Bank has committed its support to sugar cane farmers in northern Belize, where one of the most devastating droughts in the country’s history has wreaked havoc.

On Tuesday, March 31, the CDB’s board of directors approved the disbursement of a loan of over US$1 million to the Government of Belize, which will allocate the funds a Drought Recovery Scheme (DRS).

“Without this support, the drought will continue to negatively impact the socio-economic conditions of households in the affected communities.”

— Daniel Best, director of projects, Caribbean Development Bank

The DRS, a specially designed voucher programme, will provide relief farmers who seek to recover from the impact of the 2019 drought. It will help them procure much-needed inputs (planting material, fertilisers and pesticides), and services such as land clearing and preparation.

“The livelihood and well-being of households in northern Belize is intrinsically linked to agriculture, in particular, sugar production and prices. With sugar cane farmers already highly indebted and sugar prices relatively low, urgent support is needed to facilitate farm rehabilitation and replanting efforts,”director of the Projects Department at CDB, Daniel Best, remarked.

A tractor hauls loads of sugar cane along a road in Belize. (File photo)

According to the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, the severe drought conditions in the first half of 2019 were among the most intense in the country since 1981. Based on industry estimates for the 2019-2020 crop season, sugar cane production in Belize declined 30 per cent compared to the previous season.

The agriculture sector contributes up to 11 per cent of Belize’s gross domestic product with the sugar industry a key part of the sector. However, the impact of the drought has been far-reaching and has negatively impacted employment for 2019.

Unemployment jumped from 7.6 per cent in April 2019 to 10.4 per cent in September 2019. Further, economic growth slowed in the Central American country reached 0.3 per cent in 2019, far less than average 2.0 per cent growth for the previous five years.

Sugar cane production in Belize’s 2019/20 fell 30 per cent in comparison to the previous season (File photo)

“Without this support, the drought will continue to negatively impact the socio-economic conditions of households in the affected communities,” Best stated.

The loan is the latest in a series of actions by CDB to help Belize deal with the impact of the drought. In October 2019, the bank provided a US$200,000 Emergency Grant to the Government of Belize, after which it provided US$49,730 to engage the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in reviewing and making recommendations to improve the framework and application of the DRS.

You may also find interesting: Sugar cane production in Belize to restart January 15