Arturo Cantun reporting…

“The European Union signed agreements today to assist the Belizean economy particularly by pumping Euros into the sugar industry in the north. The financial boost goes to cane farmers in the form of loans for a replanting program and as well as assistance to the Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute, SIRDI, to continue and expand its technical assistance to cane farmers.

Signing on behalf of the EU was H.E. Ambassador Paola Amadei who said the assistance is part of the EU’s commitment to countries such as Belize. The financial contribution made to the cane farmers is of $6.5 million Euros to be issued to cane farmers in the form of loans to be specifically used in replanting of their cane fields.

The money will be channeled through the Caribbean Development Bank. This morning CDB was represented in the signing by Dr. Carla Barnet. The replanting program has four components, which are building awareness and support for cane farmers, the credit component which takes the bulk of the resources, monitoring and reporting of progress of the program and lastly a solid administration of the program. Locally the funds are going to be administered by the Development Finance Corporation, DFC.

General Manager at DFC, Natalie Goff represented that lending institution at the signing of the agreement. Besides the 8% interest on the loans to cane farmers, DFC intends to open a branch in Corozal to better facilitate funds to cane farmers in that district. Another agreement was signed, this time for assistance to SIRDI. $2.5 million will be facilitated by the EU and .5 million by SIRDI through the sugar industry development fund. Dr. Carlos Itza, Chairman of SIRDI. SIRDI plans to utilize the funds to construct a central office and more importantly continue and expand the technical assistance they give farmers.

Priority under this project is the “dissemination and adaptation of applied sugar cane production.” And the other priority is the enhancement of infrastructure and the strengthening of its administration and management. Financing for SIRDI will be made through the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, IICA. IICA was represented today by Victor Angel. For its part, acting Prime Minister Gaspar Vega said it will take all stakeholders active participation for the industry to continue being profitable.”

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