Agriculture Industry Crisis: Millions lost to virus plagued shrimp
Wednesday, November 18th, 2015
In October of 2015, Fyffes ceased buying products from Mediterranean Enterprises, causing a crash in the banana industry. This resulted in thousands of jobless Belizeans and millions of dollars in losses for one of the strongest income producers of the country, agriculture. Now the industry faces yet another set-back, as the shrimp industry faces a virus plague. Even though the viral infection begun just a few months ago, shrimp farms have already suffered significant losses in product and investment. While the relative parties have been trying to do everything to control the situation, it is unknown how long it will take for the shrimp industry to recuperate; in the meantime workers are being laid-off.
It is believed that the viral infection was most likely transmitted by birds that frequent the aquaculture ponds within the shrimp farms. “All farms have had to dry out their ponds. They basically stop production, completely clean out the ponds where the shrimp are grown and then restart production. The industry is taking the hard way around it, but it’s the best way to restock with new genetic material, and that’s the wisest decision that they could have taken. It’s taking a lot of time. Originally they thought that they would be able to restock by early next year, but it appears that we will have a few months’ delay in that industry,” explained Jose Alpuche, Chief Executive Officer of Agriculture.
This issue within the shrimp industry has seen over 600 people jobless, and caused close to $30 million in losses so far. “The disease incident began in March of this year. This is something that we didn’t have for 14 years. In terms of impact on hard currency earnings, you will probably see a decline of about 30%. Last year, hard currency earnings were in the range of about $90 million; I think this year we are coming in around $60 million. So it is going to be a significant loss. In terms of employment, about 40% of the employees have been directly impacted. But again these thing happen in agriculture, the industry can never be fully controlled,” said president of the Shrimp Growers Association, Alvin Henderson, in regards to the crisis. Employees that have been kept on include technical and management personnel.
Neither Alpuche nor Henderson indicated whether shrimp prices would go up, but it is expected that product costs will rise during this time of shortage.
According to the Statistical Institute of Belize Annual Report 2014, the Agriculture Industry hd a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $381 million, with the marine products accounting for $112.34 million. Out of all marine products exported by Belize, the Pacific White shrimp grown through aquaculture is the main income producer.