Ministry to present final draft of improved irrigation policy by November

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Belize's agriculture and fisheries ministry expects to present the final draft of an irrigation improvement policy to congress by October or November this year, local coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Ricardo Thompson, told BNamericas.

The new policy, being drawn up with technical support from FAO, aims to develop a strategy to improve the country's irrigation sector, focusing specifically on water harvesting, drainage, and implementing more efficient irrigation systems.

"We essentially aim to form an irrigation policy that supports an agriculture sector geared toward producing commodities for export," Thompson said, adding that the plan will also help the country prepare for the effects of climate change.

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Under the new plan, the ministry expects to grow both public and private sector investment in irrigation.

"The kind of collaboration we see between the private and public sector is setting up an enabling environment so that we can make the investments that are required. It has to be a dual effort [...], not just public or just private," said Thompson.

Planned incentives for private investment in irrigation include providing affordable credit to investors at a competitive interest rate, which in Belize is 8-10%, according to Thompson.

Another incentive is tax exemptions, and finally providing technical support for firms looking to participate in the sector.

Private sector participation will involve technical support to develop a more uniform distribution of water nationwide, as well as for developing investment plans to create profitable projects.