16 million dollars for agriculture relief


Belize will strengthen its response to the socioeconomic hardship caused by COVID-19 with a US$8 million reallocation of funds from the World Bank to support the country’s agricultural sector and improve food security in the context of the pandemic. The program will benefit more than 8,700 agricultural households in the country.
On Thursday, during a 100-minute virtual press conference, Minister of Food and Agriculture Hon. Sen. Godwin Hulse confirmed the World Bank’s reallocation.
“Our ministry is very, very pleased to announce that we have finally concluded negotiations with the World Bank for sixteen million Belize dollars of loan funds to provide relief to farmers who are impacted and affected by market contraction caused by COVID-19. Those who suffered losses from the prolonged drought of 2019 and additionally, the ministry will provide assistance to vegetable farmers to improve the post-harvest handling of products and provide financial support that is cash transfer to all female farmers.”
Minister Hulse continued, “As you know, females, in many cases, are heads of households and the backbone of our food and nutrition. We do have a female Farmer of the Year and so we included in this relief every single female farmer that is registered on our [Belize Agricultural Information Management System] BAIMS list. In addition to that, we will be providing this cash transfer to 5,372 farmers totally, of which the 2,052 are a part and those are farmers with farms smaller than twenty acres down. That is how we are doing it, this is a cash transfer.”
Tahseen Sayed, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean has also added that “Agriculture is essential to support lives and livelihoods in Belize, particularly during this challenging period. This financing will assist farmers who have been affected by COVID-19 and drought and increase farmers’ ability to provide food for the nation.”
Measures taken to prevent the further outbreak of the pandemic, such as the closing of borders, have caused interruptions in agricultural supply chains and a decline in economic activity. Many farmers have lost revenue due to the drop in tourism, disruption in export markets, and a reduction in domestic spending caused by job losses. The agricultural sector has also experienced drought since last year. The reallocated funds will provide support for agricultural households severely affected by the pandemic or drought and whose commodities contribute to food security and socioeconomic development.
This program will benefit agricultural households that are registered in the Belize Agricultural Information Management System (BAIMS) and that are producing selected commodities that are severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic or the 2019 and 2020 droughts.
For the drought, only sugar cane and vegetable, cabbage, onions, potatoes, sweet corn, sweet pepper, tomatoes production farmers operating in Cayo, Belize, Orange Walk, and Corozal Districts and registered in BAIMS qualify for support since the prolonged drought primarily affected these districts.
These funds were accessed using the Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC) from the Belize Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project. CERCs allow funds to be reallocated from existing projects to address emergency response needs.
There is another World Bank fund of $25 million US- or $50 million – project, which is yet to be activated to bring support primarily to medium and large commercial farmers, to assist with climate-smart agriculture adaptation measures, and to respond to climate changes. The World Bank has engaged the Ministry of Food and Agriculture again in detailed discussions to continue to finalize that program.