Belize Promotes Soursop Cultivation
Updated: Mar 18
Brazilian agronomist, Dr. Abel Rebouças, reveals a soursop's edible white pulp and fiber along with a core of indigestible black seeds.
A total of 372 farmers attended four soursop cultivation workshops throughout Belize in a program designed for farmers to diversify and move away from one-crop farming, reported Breaking Belize News (March 3).
Currently, there are 400 acres of soursop trees under cultivation in Belize, according to Barry Palacio, National Non-Traditional Fruit Tree Crop Coordinator for the Ministry of Agriculture,
Food Security, and Enterprise (MAFSE) in Breaking Belize News. The ministry is working toward increasing that number.
The flavor of soursop fruits can be described as a combination of strawberries and apple with sour citrus notes, contrasting with an underlying creamy texture and an aroma similar to pineapple. Soursop is known as guanabana in Spanish and graviola in Portuguese.
The soursop tree is an upright evergreen that can grow up to 30 feet (9.1 meters), according to Soursop: Annona muricata (1987). The fruits are green and prickly, and they have a moderately firm texture. They are ovoid and can be up to 12 inches long (30 centimeters).
Soursop is native to the tropical regions of the Americas, including the Caribbean. It was one of the first fruit trees carried from the Americas to the tropics in Asia, Australia and Africa. It is common in the markets of Malaya and southeast Asia.
In Belize, Brazilian agronomist, Dr. Abel Rebouças, conducted the workshops from February 27 to March 3. Rebouças has a post-doctorate degree in post-harvest tropical fruits and biological pest control. He received a master’s and a doctorate degree from the Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Sao Paulo, according to Hortifruti Saber e Saude, which names Rebouças as one of its specialists and describes itself as a program that connects consumers to fruit and vegetable producers.
Rebouças also is a tree expert for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is involved in the development of the Belize soursop value chain in conjunction with the implementation of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) COVID-19 Agri-Food Recovery Plan in Belize, Dominica, Guyana and St. Lucia, which focuses on one value chain per country.
This was the Brazilian soursop specialist’s second visit to Belize. He was there in October 2022 just before Hurricane Lisa forced the postponement of his final workshop in the South, reported Breaking Belize News (February 9).
During his first visit, Rebouças concentrated on pruning, hand pollination, nutrition, pests and diseases, weed control and fruit bagging.
“Small farmers can produce efficiently once they learn good agricultural practices to ensure the production of quality fruit,” Barry Palacio, of the Ministry of Аgrісulturе, Fооd Ѕесurіtу, аnd Еntеrрrіѕе (МАFЅЕ), said in a Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations communique.
Rebouças looks at theory in his workshops, but he focuses on hands-on training. He has been a professor at Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Sao Paulo since 1982.
With this training, Palacio said that Belizean farmers would be able to supply the fresh fruit market and, later, venture into commercial operations for processing soursop. The commercialization of the fruit would help increase farmers’ earnings and improve their livelihoods while protecting the environment.
Soursop’s pulp is used for making sherbets, ice cream, jellies and other desserts as well as a drink in Java, Cuba and other parts of America, according to Annona Muricata (Soursop), CABI Agriculture and Bioscience (January 3, 2018).
Before the farmers’ workshops, soursop stakeholders met face-to-face and virtually on February 24. They discussed and validated the findings of an analysis of the soursop value chain in Belize, and they agreed on a strategy to upgrade the soursop sector. Among those represented were the organizers, the Ministry of Agriculture and the FAO, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration, private sectors, farmers, manufacturers and Caribbean Agricultural Research & Development Institute, (CARDI) according to the FAO.
The Belize National Value Chain Team and the FAO Caribbean Value Chain Team carried out the analysis over the past months. The teams presented opportunities and constraints in global and national markets. The constraints included availability and costs of inputs, nursery certification, pest and disease management, the need for more technical knowledge and improved coordination among the various actors.
To address these constraints, stakeholders endorsed four major actions: improving market access; promoting inclusiveness of smallholding farmers and small businesses; strengthening the capacity for national processing of soursop products, and increasing collaboration among stakeholders.
Besides soursop, the Ministry of Agriculture has been advising farmers on the cultivation of coconuts and pitahaya (dragon fruit) as a way to diversify their crops, reported Breaking Belize News (March 3).
“The agriculture and food sector is one of the main pillars of the Belizean economy, contributing approximately $590 million annually to economic output, representing 80% of domestic exports, and directly employing 17.9% of the Belizean population (of 400,000),” according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Moreover, it is a major foreign exchange earner, maintaining a vibrant rural population, and ensuring food and nutrition security for the country.”