IMPACT ON BELIZE AGRICULTURE
April 3rd, 2020 - SPECIAL FARMING REPORT
On Monday March 30th, 2020 The Prime Minister of Belize announced that effective April 1, 2020 the entire country of Belize would enter a “State of Emergency” and that a Statutory Instrument, published on April 1st, would define a broad series of special powers which certain Ministers would enjoy to enforce the key “Lockdown Goals” during the Emergency.
The main features of the Emergency are:
1) Shelter at Home
2) Nationwide Curfew 20:00 to 05:00
3) Movement outside of home is only allowed for:
a. Purchase of food, medicine, fuel, and certain other essential items
b. Medical needs
c. Caring for a sick person/relative
d. Working in an “Essential Service”
e. Strictly limited size special gatherings (e.g. funerals, weddings, etc.)
4) Borders are closed to non-exempt private individuals
5) Cargo/Goods may still enter/leave
6) Essential Services continue:
a. Government (national & local but reduced hours)
c. Food Supply
h. Freight / Transport
As of April 3rd there are 4 reported Coronavirus cases in Belize and no fatalities.
Belize has an unusually young population, with a median age of 23.9 years and 89% of the population is 55 or younger. This may be helpful in terms of the population’s resistance to the virus. On the other hand, Belize has only 1.1 Physicians per 1,000 and 1.3 hospital beds per 1,000, versus 2.5 to 4 in developed economies. This means that the country’s healthcare system will be hard pressed to manage any significant number of serious/critical COVID-19 cases
What Steps has BSA undertaken
to manage the COVID-19 Pandemic?
1) Support BSA Workforce
2) Understand Legislation and begin providing practical feedback to Government of Belize
3) Coordinate with Santander Sugar and our key suppliers
4) Adjust Plans as required
Support BSA Workforce
BSA has focused on educating our workforce on healthcare issues and government regulations, as well as supplying all team members with 20 lbs. of dried beans and 20 lbs. of rice so that every team member has a reserve of food for their families. All BSA employees continue to receive full compensation and benefits.
Understand legislation and begin providing practical feedback to Government of Belize
The Government of Belize has published (and already amended) a Statutory Instrument (see link). The Government is strictly enforcing the curfew and there have already been 74 arrests for curfew and other Statutory Order violations. We have thoroughly briefed our team on the new regulations and issued them with interim documentation evidencing their participation in an “Essential Service”.
We are providing feedback both directly and through our Industry Association with the Ministry of Agriculture and other Governmental Authorities.
Coordinate with Santander Sugar and our key suppliers
We are working closely with Santander Sugar to coordinate and manage our forthcoming sugarcane harvest, which begins in late April as well as new sugarcane planting which should begin later in May. We are also coordinating with our key suppliers (e.g. fuel, fertilizers, agri-chemicals, spare parts) to ensure necessary supplies are available.
Adjust plans as required
We are reviewing our business plans to consider any needed changes in light of Belize’s State of Emergency as well as developments in global commodity and financial markets
Packaging beans in 10 lb bags for employees.
Preparation of bags for distribution of food items for each employee
Each worker receives a free allocation of 20 lbs. each of rice & beans.
BSA HR Manager Hazelita Kuylen briefs BSA workers, explaining the rules that will be implemented come midnight due to the national state of emergency and how it will affect us as an essential business.
HR Manager explains that we are allowed to work but there are certain guidelines that we have to follow. Anyone that does not follow the guidelines set out by the authorities will be arrested and possibly charged.
Issuing Letter of employment as required for movement of agricultural workers during the State of Emergency. This will be until a formal ID issued by the COVID-19 Committee will arrive for each employee.