Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Belize validates strategy to upgrade its soursop industry

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Soursop, the beloved and popular fruit among Belizeans, was the topic of discussion for over 50 stakeholders during a workshop organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Untied Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise (MAFSE).

Soursop (Annona muricata). – –

During a Soursop Stakeholder Validation Workshop, held face-to-face and virtually on Friday, February 24, 2023, stakeholders met to discuss and validate the findings from an analysis of the soursop value chain in Belize and to agree on an Upgrading Strategy for the soursop sector. Among those in attendance were representatives from MAFSE, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration and their agencies, private sector representatives, farmers, processors, and regional partner Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute (CARDI).
The analysis of the value chain was conducted by the Belize National Value Chain Team and the FAO Caribbean Value Chain Team over the past months. The teams presented findings on global and national market trade to highlight the opportunities for the booming sector and identified several constraints to the soursop value chain. Among these were the availability and cost of inputs, nursery certification and varietal characterization, pest and disease management, the need for increased technical knowledge, and improved coordination among actors.
To address these constraints, stakeholders endorsed four major actions under the Upgrading Strategy. These include improving market access, promoting the inclusiveness and integration of small holder farmers and small businesses into the value chain, strengthening the national capacity for processing soursop products, and increasing collaboration between stakeholders in the value chain.
Mr Barry Palacio, National Non-Traditional Fruit Tree Crop Coordinator for the Ministry, remarked that the workshop established a great opportunity that soursop presents to small farmers. He noted that small farmers can produce efficiently once they learn good agricultural practices to ensure the production of quality fruit. He emphasized that with this training, Belizean small farmers would be able to supply the fresh fruit market and later venture into commercial operations for processing soursop, which would help to increase their earnings and improve their livelihoods whilst protecting the environment.
Ms Bree Romuld, FAO Caribbean Value Chain Development Specialist leading FAO’s support to upgrading the value chain, remarked that the Belize soursop has tremendous potential for profitability for small farmers and all those involved in the value chain. She remarked that building the value chain was a collaborative effort of the private and public sectors and that while the issues with production needed to be tackled, building a successful soursop industry required addressing all the other constraints along the value chain. She concluded that the strategy would help to address these constraints and that under the good leadership of the Ministry in this process and with continued work with the other value chain stakeholders, this could be achieved.
An immediate step in implementing the Upgrading Strategy will begin with a weeklong training on good agricultural practices for soursop production from the end of February to early March 2023, to be delivered by FAO Tree Crop Expert Dr Abel Reboucas. This training will support the technical knowledge of extension workers and farmers cultivating soursop in Belize. It is hoped that this activity will address a key constraint in soursop production and contribute to a more consistent supply of quality soursop.
The development of the Belize soursop value chain falls under a regional FAO project on the Sustainable Development of Resilient Value Chains – Implementation of CARICOM COVID-19 Agri-Food Recovery Plan. It is expected that upgrading strategy and trainings provided under the project will aid in guiding the success of the sector over the coming years and build a resilient, sustainable, and profitable soursop industry.

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