While there are close to thirty (30) varieties in production in Belize, the varietal status of the industry remains unstable as the Belize sugar industry is dominated by a single variety: B79474. It currently covers approximately, 60 percent, of the total acres under production. Thewidespread use of the B79474 can be attributed to its remarkable adaptability to a broad range of conditions including the ability to grow on high plains and lowlands. This presents two key challenges: While it contributes to an increase in sugar quality in February, March and April and its maturity peak coincides with the dry season, the challenge for the industry is to harvest the majority of the cane at the best time for everyone growing that variety. Secondly and perhaps most important, having so much B79474 under production leaves the greater part of the industry vulnerable to pests and diseases.
If the Belizean Sugarcane Industry is to remain competitive in the world market, with the decline of preferential and the resulting fall in sugar prices, the industry must look for ways to change the varietal composition to a more diverse distribution based on early, mid and late maturing varieties.
Therefore, the Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI), the only miller in the North of Belize, has been conducting sugarcane variety screening trials for about 40 years for the benefit of the entire sugarcane industry. These variety trials are on land under its control and do not cover all soil types in which cane is grown. As counter part funding to the SIRDI-IDB project, BSI is working with SIRDI to expand the focus of variety development and extension to the entire sugarcane producing areas by expanding the outfield testing of advanced stage varieties to additional locations more representative of all farmers’ cane fields. The ultimate objective is to provide to the cane farming community a group of cane varieties adaptable to the various soil types in which sugarcane is grown and which are identified for harvest at particular times during crop to maximize sugar content.
Farmers that have adequate land for sugar cane planting and would like to try potential varieties are encouraged to contact the Sugar Industry Research Institute’s research coordinator at phone number 677-4734 for more information.