Small Country with Big Imports

 I walk a distance of  4km to work and back almost every day. I decided to count how many soda drink ads I’d see going in one direction. I pass by 12 ads of Coca-Cola and 2 Sprite. These ads are either car size mural paintings, big white and red wording on small shops, or the image on a sign of a coca cola bottle falling to its side and spilling magically as it hangs to indicate a corner store.

Many tourists or volunteers I’ve met in Belize have repeatedly commented on Belize “it’s like America”. The culture shock you imagine to get in a country, here in Belize City, you are shocked because it’s an American fast food culture (but with no fast food franchises).  The concept of food in Belize is quantity with little quality of the food it consumes. Now you can argue that this is prevalent in many countries, and how can it not with the impact of our globalized food system. But for a small country of less than 400,000 people, it is flooded with imports and very dependent on them. As a small market, there is little control it can have on the quality it receives from their foreign producers.

I have met only one Belizean vegetarian, and it will be a while before I speak to another one. I asked his reason for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle, and his response was to the point. At first is was because of God and faith he made the change, but after some searching, he became aware of what is put in the food from farmers in Belize. The food imported isn’t any healthier, but Belizeans will eat it because they don’t explore other foods. Everyone has the right to choose what they eat (for those who can make that economic choice), but I do agree with the comment that exploring alternatives is key to Belize.

Belize has a window of opportunity to take hold of their food economy and re-orient their agriculture itself to be a country that can comfortably survive with less trade, less technology, and less distance (Wilk, 2006). And interestingly, there is a new market that is pushing for organic and healthy local food in rural areas. Communities are sharing ideas and are thinking of new ways to rely less on foreign products (including pesticides and chemicals). Living in the city, it is hard to see this sometimes, and one can be pessimistic to see these changes, however initiatives are slowly occurring. But are they too slow?

Reference: Fast Food/ Slow Food. (2006). The culture economy of the global food system. England, Lanham; Wilk Richard.

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