Bloomberg Línea — Less than 10 years ago, Belize’s fishing industry contributed 7% to the country’s GDP, making it the second most important sector for the country after the tourism industry, and in 2014 shrimp farming accounted for $45 million in exports (90 million Belizean dollars), according to a report by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
However, the fishing industry was devastated by shrimp early mortality syndrome (EMS) caused by a bacterial strain of vibrio parahaemolyticus, and by March 2015 many farms had begun to feel the full effects of the disease.
In 2014, production peaked at 16 million pounds (7,900 tons), but in the following two years it dropped to between one and two million pounds.
Shrimp’s contribution to GDP fell to just over 1%, but Belize is now taking steps to revive the sector, announced Agriculture Minister Jose Mai, and who has appointed a shrimp-industry task force to address the industry’s constraints and chart a way forward.
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The chairman of the task force, Hugh O’Brien, told local media that he will lead a diverse team from the public and private sectors for the next three months, with an emphasis on the implementation of modern technologies that will help to increase shrimp production at local farms.
O’Brien said the task force was formed to assess how the industry is doing, what are some of the real challenges and constraints it faces, and to implement technologies that have been proven to work in Belize.
The country went from having 16 known shrimp farms a decade ago to seven in operation, and also lacks the necessary infrastructure to resume shrimp fishing, according to preliminary diagnostics.
Taiwan hungry to import shrimp
“Of course, we already know that technology is going to be one component, but there are other components that we have identified that need to be looked at. One of them, for example, is our market options,” O’Brien said.
He said that a revived shrimp industry could tap into several export markets, including Taiwan, whose government has already expressed interest in buying shrimp from Belize, because it used to source from Nicaragua, but diplomatic ties with that market were severed in December 2021.
During the heyday of the shrimp industry, the Central American country exported shrimp to numerous European destinations, and also had access to the Mexican market.