Administration, Financial & Sales Division - Citrus Research & Education Institute
Citrus Industry Overview
ImageThe prosperity of the Stann Creek valley was founded on bananas. The decline in banana production started in 1917 as a result of the Panama disease. Banana planting spread further up the valley in search of disease free land but in 1937 the ravages of Panama disease and Cercospora leaf spot finally killed the Industry. Trials plantings with citrus during the period in which the Banana Industry was declining was very successful.

In 1913 the first grafted citrus trees were imported Florida, and planted by Dr. S.O. Brown, Mr. W.A.J. Bowman and Mr. Alfred E. Vine, manager of the British Honduras Syndicate.

In 1924, Mr. Alfred E. Vine sold his holdings now known as Pomona to the Government of British Honduras for the establishment of a Boy’s School. A Board of Management was appointed for the Industrial School with Mr. Douglas Jones, the then Colonial Secretary as Chairman and Mr. W.A.J. Bowman as one of the members. A policy to increase the size of the Citrus Orchard was formulated and a nursery established for the sale of budded citrus trees to the planters. This policy led to a further expansion of the industry. Exhibits were sent to the Imperial Fruit Show and in 1928, the Industrial School won the gold and silver medals at the fruit show held at Manchester, England.

ImageAround 1931, the reputation of British Honduras grapefruit was established and the Honorable G.G.R. Sharp of Jamaica visited British Honduras and was very much impressed with what he saw of the citrus industry and its great possibilities. Mr. Sharp purchased the area of land known as “Middlesex” which was then a government forest reserve and planted grapefruit trees quite extensively on the area. A citrus nursery was established at Middlesex by the Sharp brothers. As Middlesex and other orchards came into bearing, private enterprise took over the marketing of citrus fruits. The citrus industry had grown from fifteen acres in 1913 to eight hundred and fifty acres in 1945.

The Citrus Company of British Honduras was established at Middlesex in Stann Creek in 1933; it was transferred to Pomona in 1942. The canning of grapefruit and orange juice was started in Stann Creek in 1935. The first grapefruit section in tins was processed on an oil stove and the output was 5 cases per day. The Citrus Company of British Honduras Ltd. first opened its citrus processing operations in 1948 under the ownership of the Sharp brothers from Jamaica. In 1983, Sharp sold his interest to Belizean and Trinidadian interest.

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In 1963, Salada Food Products Ltd. under the ownership of Salada Foods of Canada, bought over Alta Vista from Commonwealth Development Corporation of England. In 1969, Kellog of Battle Creek Michigan, USA acquired the company. The company continued to operate under this new management up to 1979 when it was acquired by Nestle S.A. of Switzerland and renamed Belize Food Products Ltd.

In 1990, Nestle transferred ownership to a group of Belizean citrus growers, employees and Belize Holdings Inc. (25%). The company was sold in August 1999 to the Commonwealth Development Corporation of England.

The citrus industry is the most significant agro-industry in Belize. It earned more than US$50.6 million for the country in the 2003/2004 crop year. Although Belize's production is tiny compared to the citrus giants (Brazil and US), Belize' production per capita is $US181 / head, the highest of any country and hence a high national dependency on the crop.

The Stann Creek Valley is the traditional heart of the Belizean citrus industry (where grapefruit trees were planted in 1926) with over 75% of farmers (approximately 750 growers) in the area being involved in the cultivation of the crop, the majority of those managing below 10 acres. Citrus production in Belize has now expanded into the other Districts of Belize and can now be seen in the west of the country in the Cayo District and in the southern most part of the country in the Toledo District. Approximately 48,000 acres of citrus are cultivated in Belize, Valencia orange (80%) and grapefruit (20%) being the principal crops, with small amounts of early oranges, limes, tangerines and lemons, which are processed into Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate (FCOJ) by the two factories. The industry supports the livelihoods of approximately 1,000 farm families (there are 1,000 registered growers) and approximately 10,000 citrus industry workers. The largest 65 growers (above 100 acres) are responsible for 75% of the production. There is a growing interest is the export of fresh fruit from Belize, small quantities are being exported to the UK and Germany.

In October 2002 the Citrus Growers Association acquired majority ownership of the two processing factories, jointly known as Citrus Products of Belize Limited. This means that that all aspects of citrus production in Belize, from the tree planting to fruit processing to product selling are now grower owned and managed.

 


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