Belize has a public-private economy with tourism as the number one foreign exchange earner followed by exports of marine products, citrus, sugar, bananas, and garments.
Because of the uncertain future of these traditional exports, major efforts are being made towards agricultural diversification. Industrial development is encouraged through a number of incentives which include the awarding by government of tax holidays and import duty exemption on inputs of up to a maximum of 25 years to qualifying companies. (See Investment link for more information).
Agriculture currently provides some 71% of the country's total foreign exchange earnings, and employs approximately 29% of the total labour force.
Although about 1,998,230 acres or 38% of the total land area are considered potentially suitable for agricultural use, only perhaps 10 to 15% is in use in any one year. About half of this is under pasture, with the remainder in a variety of permanent and annual crops. The traditional system of "milpa" (shifting cultivation) involves the annual clearing of new land for crop production, however, there is an increasing number of farmers making permanent use of cleared land by mechanical means. A tax is levied on the unimproved "value" of the land.
The expansion and improvement of agriculture is one of the principal aims of national development planning. The Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries maintains an Extension Service with officers posted in all districts. Agricultural research is conducted at the Central Farm Research Station into a variety of tropical crops, livestock and pasture. Agricultural research is also done by other non-governmental bodies, such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Taiwanese Mission, within the country. The Ministry provides mechanical, veterinary and quarantine services to farmers and an agricultural training college at Central Farm. Other government services include the Belize Marketing Board, which operates in the buying and selling of producers' rice from the Toledo District, and the Development Finance Corporation, which offers credit to farmers, among others.
Fisheries and Forestry:
Belize has a viable fishing industry. During 1996, Bz $24.3 million of marine products were exported. There are laws to protect the rock or spiney lobster to avoid over fishing. There is a closed season between March and July. Export markets for scale fish are mainly in the United States, Mexico and Jamaica.
There has been a resurgence in forestry. Reforestation and natural regeneration in the pine forest (mainly in the Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts) and artificial regeneration of fast-growing tropical hardwood species are in progress.
THE BELIZE FISHING INDUSTRY - THE ROAD TO EXPANSION
The Belize Fisheries Department was established in 1965 and has been mandated to manage a sector that has been in existence for several generations - the Fisheries Sector. Belize's fisheries are exploited for commercial, as well as for subsistence purposes, and are one of the most heavily exploited natural resources. In an effort to maximize the benefits obtained from the fishing industry, while ensuring its long-term viability, fisheries managers are promoting an expansion in production through diversification of this resource base. Belize's fishing industry is small and growing; it is an industry with great potential for development.
List of Fisheries Export Products:
• Aquarium Fish (NOS)
• Stone Crab Claws
• Dry Sea Farine
• Smoked Fish