After a less than normal corn harvest caused by the summer drought (see national loss estimates in Ag Briefs, pg, Bel-Car reports that corn inventories are still more than adequate for domestic needs, although leaving little export surplus. Several farmers then planned to plant during the fall, normally a bean-planting time. However, the overabundant fall rains prevented many from following through on that plan. Due to the long-lasting rains most had to revert to the normal beans winter cycle, as they have a shorter growing period than corn. Quite a bit of RK beans and BE (black eye) peas are in the fields now. Last year was a record bean crop, with high acreages and high yields. Belize exported twice the amount of beans in 2015 than in 2014. About 50 containers (50k lbs per) remain. There is a challenge to find new markets, as price decreases faster than quality.
Our freight situation continues to be a pending fluid issue challenging grain marketing in Belize.The Belize City port is still under receivership by the Belize Bank, and feasibility studies have been done using the site Espat had proposed for a cruise ship terminal. It would be closer for Cayo farmers, yet that port is shallow. Commerce Bight (closer than Big Creek) has a natural deep channel. Beltraide has also discussed a bulk port for Belize. Many farmers are waiting for “the dust to settle” regarding shipping.
“We are too big and we are too small,” explains Bel-Car CEO Otto Friesen. In October of 2014, Bel-Car made 2 bulk shipments of corn to Trinidad. This sale of 3,000 tons to one buyer, equaled 5% of the entire Spanish Lookout/Cayo corn harvest. Looking at the big picture, this same buyer requires 700 tons for each of his batches of chickens, that is, every 8 weeks.
Some growers are looking at alternative markets for corn, other than for chicken and pig feed in the Caribbean. For example, by targeting the more lucrative snack-food industry buyers in Central America, higher quality corn might bring better prices plus avoid the pitfalls of oceanic shipping.
Seed trials to identify better high quality yellow cornmeal grade corn varieties has been ongoing in Spanish Lookout, and in a year or two, Bel-Car will have sound seed recommendations for Spanish Lookout farmers.