Friday, May 22nd 2015. BMG: Accredited to a promise made to Prime Minister Barrow by Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-Jeou back in 2009 that the country would aid in the development of Tilapia Aquaculture in Belize, we have received yet another donation to the industry.
The aim of commercially farmed Tilapia, first introduced to Belize more than twenty years ago, has always been to provide income generation and a reliable source of protein in the diet of under-privileged families in rural communities of Belize. And although Taiwanese experts determined that our country had great potential for aquaculture, the growth of the industry has been hindered by the high cost of input materials like the fish feed which has to be imported.
The good news is that this latest donation from the Republic of China, in the form of a U.S $2.5 million Tilapia hatchery will solve the problems being faced by the industry, making the fingerlings more affordable to local fish farmers.
This hatchery, funded from Taiwan’s International Cooperation Development Fund (ICDF) includes a two-story building which houses offices, a laboratory, a conference room, a cafeteria, a kitchen and residential accommodations on the second floor for staff and visiting technical experts.
A small warehouse was also included in the project, 16 earthen ponds lined with neoprene, and an even larger water reservoir pond put on raised ground so water can flow into the ponds by gravity.
12 concrete tanks provided pre-stocked by the ICDF are used to grow tilapia which are transferred to different tanks as they get larger and eventually to the earthen ponds where they will reach peak maturity. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Wednesday, May 20th for this new facility where Minister Gaspar Vega thanked Taiwan’s ambassador to Belize, Benjamin Ho for the support.
Ambassador Ho said that this facility, the result of a cooperation agreement signed in February of 2012, will help to achieve four goals:
1. Provide enough Tilapia fingerlings at low cost to supply all the small and medium scale farms in rural Belize.
2. Host training workshops to train Belizean farmers in the technology of growing Tilapia.
3. Help local farmers develop alternative feeds.
4. Assist in marketing their production on the domestic market and for export.
Currently the imported Tilapia feed made from soybean meal is expensive and Belize grows soybean but has no plant to convert it to fish feed, making the cost of growing and selling Tilapia in Belize higher than the rest of the region, leaving us out as a contender in the Region’s Tilapia market.
With this new facility that is expected to lower the cost of rearing this fish, it is our hope that the practice will become more profitable for local farmers across the country.
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