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Vegetable Interdiction Team’s Purpose Is To Discourage Contraband Activity

Aug 4, 2023

Vegetable Interdiction Team’s Purpose Is To Discourage Contraband Activity

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Agriculture announced the establishment of a Vegetable Interdiction Team, aimed at combating contraband activity involving agricultural products. The VIT comprises personnel from various government departments and agencies, including representatives from the ministry’s Extension Service and Supplies Control Unit, the Customs Department, the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, Belize Marketing and Development Corporation, and the Mobile Interdiction Team of the police department. The formation of the VIT follows concerns raised by farmers about the increase in contraband activity, the presence of illegal vegetables and fruits in local markets, as well as the challenges farmers face in selling their products due to the competition with illegally imported items. But there have been some complaints that prices of the produce that vendors buy and sell at the markets have skyrocketed since the VIT was formed. Today, News Five asked the Director of Extension in the Ministry of Agriculture, Clifford Martinez, about that.

Clifford Martinez, Director, Extension, Ministry of Agriculture

Clifford Martinez

“The Customs and MIT, as well as Baja are regulated in terms of being able to confiscate. And to control on custom goods or non-registered goods or contraband goods. The extension service then is dedicated to production Baja as well is dedicated to safe, safe production. And so B.M.D.C. then becomes the unit or is the unit that is responsible to assist. The availability of produce on the market as well as provide opportunities for producers and that production to either value add or ensure for the sale of those produces locally or domestically and regionally or internationally. If it is that that those items being imported would still generate an increased cost of the market, then that’s where we need to look at and address because there might be, there might be an issue of gouging. And we’ve seen several instances of gouging at the market outlets, and then within some of these stores .If you can recall, the government has recently assigned the Supplies Control Unit to now be responsible for five additional commodities to look at prices for these and then look at possibility of gouging. We have received reports where we can validate that indeed there are some commodities where gouging, where gouging is concerned and how we look at that and respond to those, uh, those measures are being applied.”