Agriculture - Other Crops
Crops other than sugar, citrus, and bananas played a very minor role in the Belizean economy in the early 1990s. Cultivation of nontraditional export crops were encouraged by the CBI as a way of lessening dependence on sugar and banana exports. Trade incentives were offered for nontraditional products, such as tropical fruits or winter fruits and vegetables. This strategy was only moderately successful, however.
Examples of failed attempts at agricultural diversification included AID's sponsorship of the Belize Agri-Business Company, whose purpose was to decrease the dependency of northern farmers on sugarcane by replacing it with cucumbers, okra, and bell peppers for winter export to the United States. The effort failed because of the farmers' reluctance to change and because of poor marketing. In 1987 the failure of Caribe Farm Industries, the most prominent nontraditional agricultural exporter in the country producing a variety of vegetables, added to the growing frustration with the diversification efforts. Difficulties were also experienced with tropical fruits. The Danish-owned Tropical Produce Company (TPC) had a 570-hectare mango farm in the Monkey River area of the Toledo District. Its produce was grown for the United States market, as well as for European importers, with whom TPC held a ten-year contract. But shipments were erratic because of Mediterranean fruit fly quarantines. For instance, from 1987 to 1990, there were no mango exports from the TPC farm to the United States.
Most production of import-substitution crops resulted from the efforts of two groups, the Maya and the Mennonites. Small farmers, primarily of Mayan descent, grew corn and beans in sparsely populated areas for their own consumption. The immigrant Mennonite community bought 40,000 hectares of forested land along the Hondo River in 1959, constructed a road to Orange Walk, and soon created a thriving business based on dairy products, vegetables, beans, and poultry. Yet, overall production swung widely over the years, closely following price subsidies. The Belize Marketing Board, which supervised production of import-substitution crops, was scheduled to function exclusively as a price stabilization agency by the end of 1992.
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