PM John Briceno heads to Guyana as Belize peeved at trading relations within CARICOM

Prime Minister John Briceno will lead a delegation to Guyana for talks amid growing concerns regarding intra-CARICOM trade, Agriculture Minister Jose Abelardo Mai has said.

Mai said that a container of poultry remains stuck in Grenada due to permit issues, but he believes that the authorities in Grenada are protecting their personal interests.

He said CARICOM is no longer interested in purchasing approximately 180 containers of red kidneys from Belize and that it is imperative that the undermining has to stop in order to survive and foster trade in the Caribbean.

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Mai said Belize will have to revisit its trade policies with CARICOM.

“This has been raised at COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development) a number of times. We have been battling with one container of poultry into Grenada for the past six months; one container. Their justification for not allowing it is because the importer didn’t have an import permit when it arrived there.

“Apparently the permit expired because of COVID delays and it got there and they said oh, but you don’t have a permit. I said fine, no problem. Forget that one. Give me a permit now for five containers. And they could not respond to me. So obviously, they are protecting their side,” Mai said.

“Not that they have a strong poultry industry, but I am certain that there’s one or two big businessmen that import all the poultry from Tyson in the US which is cheap poultry, subsidize poultry. So when you do things like that to undermine your fellow brother CARICOM state, it is not in good faith.

“When we have to take you to court because you are importing sugar from extra-regional sources and not paying the CET (Common External Tariff) then that is not in the best interest of CARICOM brotherhood.”

Mai said that Mexico is now offering Belize the removal of 125 per cent tariff on black beans and Belmopan “will “need to revisit our marketing and production strategy to say guess what maybe we should produce red kidney beans only for local consumption while change to producing black beans which is consumed in Mexico and Guatemala”.

The position being taken with Guatemala comes on the heels of tariffs being lifted in Mexico and is being seen as a move to strengthen the partnership between Belize and other Central American countries.

Mai in announcing that Prime Minister Briceño, who is also the CARICOM chairman, will be visiting Guyana where the CARICOM Secretariat is based, maintains that the future of Belize lies in Central America.

“We have lost all confidence when it comes to trade with CARICOM. I have said this before a number of times and I have said this in the House of Representatives. Guatemala has 18 million people; Mexico has 123 million, El Salvador six and a half million.

“The future of Belize lies in Central America. So while I love our CARICOM brothers, they are our supporters we are a part of CARICOM – it is embedded in our constitution. They supported us when we wanted independence, but when it comes to trade, I have huge reservations.

“And so, we are not saying we won’t trade with them, but we are saying to them that if my brothers in Central America and Mexico are extending the olive branch to us in terms of trade, we will accept it,” the agriculture minister added.



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