The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture in collaboration with the Taiwan Technical Mission hosted a ground breaking ceremony for the building of a Tilapia Hatchery Center in Central Farm yesterday. It is a part of the Aquaculture Project that is being implemented in the development of the tilapia industry. This Aquaculture Project is estimated to have a cost of two and a half million US dollars and a duration of five years which initiated from February 2012 and is to culminate on February 2017. Present at the event was Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture, the Hon. Gaspar Vega.
Hon Gaspar Vega – Minister of Natural Resources:
What we will be doing through this project is we’re going to be providing the fingerlings for the small ponds, the small farmers, in order to alleviate the poverty. We will be increasing the production by ten times, plus this facility will be used for research purposes. Initially this is the biggest challenge, to put up this facility. We will still be taking the challenge of mitigating the cost of the feed, which I know is going to be a challenge. We want to ensure that the small people can afford to have their little farm in their back yard, because that is the purpose of this project to assist the less fortunate. Today we’re planning on being able to cut it down by 30% fully by the time the facility is finished, so that the small farmers can afford to buy the feed so that they can stay in the business.
The aquaculture Tilapia Hatchery Building, will compromise of eighteen (18) earthen ponds, a reservoir and a sedimentation pond along with 12 nursery tanks and 16 fry concrete tanks. The goal is to produce 1 million “all male” high quality tilapia fingerlings to assist the development of the on-growing small-scale tilapia farming operations in Belize. CEO in theMinistry of Agriculture, Jose Alpuche, told us about the efforts made in the Tilapia industry in the past and where they are today.
Jose Alpuche – CEO Minister of Agriculture:
The largest producer of tilapia, as you know, had gone into receivership. That project is still in transition, the last that we heard. But the prospects for that to restart are quite good, from what we’ve been told by those involved. As it relates to small-scale tilapia farming, it’s pulled up quite a bit across the country right now, but it’s still not at the level of production that we would want it, that would be able to take on board the million fingerlings that we’ll be producing by year five. What we’re doing at this point in time though are experiments. Instead of the traditional ponds, we’ll dealing with tanks for production of the tilapia, all the way to mature stage. So we’re doing several programs to get the best possible formula to be able to pass on to small farmers.
CEO Alpuche says while the Domestic market for tilapia is quite good, the plan is for export capability in the near future.
Jose Alpuche – CEO Minister of Agriculture:
The domestic market is quite vibrant. I know that tilapia fetches about seven dollars a pound, in terns of fillet. The sea stocks fetch more. On the domestic market there is quite a bit. We believe that this million fingerling production could be taken up on the domestic market. However the original plan from the first catch concept was that with a large producer with a processing facility, with the export capability, that the small farmers would be able to piggy-back on that. That is still a plan. That is something though that we would have to discuss in collaboration with the new operators of that operation, once it comes on stream.
The Taiwanese Technical Mission has been an integral part of this project and H.E David Wu, Ambassador of Taiwan to Belize, says they have wanted to assist Belize with its Tilapia Industry for some time now as Taiwan has been very successful in that industry.
H E David Wu – Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize:
Tilapia farming in Taiwan is very advanced. We are more than willing to share this experience and the success with our very close friends in the diplomatic [service] in Belize. We sent the delegation here to assess how we could have this tilapia farming industry for the commercial values. The first time it was not very satisfactory. Then the second time we sent the expert to assist again. Then we found if we could have a hatchery here to have about one million fingerlings per year, then the people here that are interested in tilapia farming will benefit from this.
Through the aquaculture project it is hoped that the use of modern tilapia culture technology will increase the annual tilapia production in Belize.