Belize resumes shipment of corn to Guatemala
Belize has resumed shipment of corn to Guatemala, 13 years after the last shipment, even though the two countries have signed a preferential trade agreement in 2006 that came into effect four years later.
A consignment of grain destined for Guatemala City from the Valley of Peace Farms Limited departed last Thursday, signalling the resumption of trade in corn between the two countries. The corn was shipped to Gruma, a Mexican multinational company.
“About three weeks ago, Maseca reached out and said that they have a need for corn and we said that we have corn. We went through a process of sending samples to Guatemala to see if our corn qualifies [and] the results came back very good, and then last week they confirmed an order of 180 metric tonnes of yellow corn and 324 metric tons of white corn,” said General Manager of Valley of Peace Farm Gilbert Canton.
“That’s the first of the yellow corn that’s going out and over the next two weeks we’ll be loading out the rest of the yellow and white corn all across the border into Melchor and then on to Guatemala City to Maseca’s plant,” Canton said.
Minister of Agriculture Jose Abelardo Mai acknowledged that an agreement had been reached with Guatemala under the reciprocal trade concept, whereby Belize would import Maseca from Guatemala and export white corn to them.
“Now white corn is not easily exported to Guatemala under the trade agreements, under the Partial Scope Agreement, because it is for human consumption and so Guatemala has the small farmers producing white corn, but when there is scarcity, then it can be done,” Mai said.
“We know that the largest importer of corn in the region is Guatemala, in Central America. In North America, the largest importer of corn is Mexico, they have huge populations that consume corn three times a day,” he added.
“We have a small population of 380,000 people of which 50 per cent is Hispanic and 50 per cent is other and, therefore, our corn consumption is not as great as Central America. So we can sustain ourselves with corn, but other countries really want the corn, especially in a year like this where there is a scarcity of corn and the prices are increasing because the cost of agro-inputs has gone up.”
Belize’s initial agreement with Guatemala was cancelled in 2008, with a change in administration.
The Partial Scope Agreement was revitalised earlier this year through the Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission that Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Courtenay said held meetings and had set up different desks and tables for officials to deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary business facilitation.
“And we have committed to having those entities start their work and working diligently and most importantly to facilitating a meeting with the private sector,” said Courtenay. “We have put on the table an increase in the number of products that Belize wants to be covered by the Partial Scope Agreement and Guatemala undertook to review them,” he said.