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May 14, 2003

Shrimp farming doubles production

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But as well as things are going in the tourism sector, the economy of Belize is a lot bigger than just tourism. Agriculture remains the economic pillar of Belize and a quick roundup of the four major export crops indicates that 2003 will see stability in three areas and explosive growth in the fourth.

For sugar, which is Belize’s traditional number one foreign exchange earner, indications are that while production may drop slightly to one hundred and nine thousand tons due to extremely dry weather, revenues should hold their own at around ninety million Belize dollars. This is due to the appreciation of the Euro, a slight increase in world prices and the development of new markets for both refined and raw sugar in CARICOM. Jamaica has placed orders for fourteen thousand tons, while Trinidad has asked for six thousand. As for the future, B.S.I. is looking forward to the co-generation of electricity from bagasse, which will give the company and farmers a new revenue stream as well as open the door to expanded sugar production.

The outlook for citrus, despite some weather setbacks, remains encouraging. According to the Citrus Grower’s Association, the recent heat wave resulted in some unexpected loss of fruit, but deliveries of orange and grapefruit are still expected to increase slightly over last year to five point three million boxes. Processing of this year’s crop will finish early, likely in the first week of June. Prices are holding firm at projected levels of five dollars and seventy-two cents per box for oranges and four dollars and seven cents for grapefruit and the long-term view is positive. Efforts right now focus on the replanting and rehabilitation of groves in order to increase yields. The C.G.A. estimates that just by promoting better farm practices, production should be able to reach a total of ten million boxes.

For Belize’s banana industry there is good news and bad news. The good news is that production, which was devastated by Hurricane Iris, has fully-recovered and is expected to reach record levels, perhaps as high as seventy-five thousand tons in 2003. The problem, however, is marketing. Prices have dropped over thirty percent over the last two years as cheaper “dollar” bananas continue to encroach on our traditional protected markets in Europe, particularly the U.K. Belize bananas enjoy a good reputation for quality and the Banana Growers Association will be looking for ways to improve its marketing efforts along with traditional buyer Fyffe’s. A new cold storage facility installed at the Big Creek port allows for much quicker turnaround time for ships, but until prices improve, Belize’s banana farmers will have to work hard to service their hurricane rehabilitation loans and invest for the future.

If there is one economic activity that overshadows the gains of tourism, it is shrimp farming. Although there are only thirteen shrimp farms currently operating in Belize, they are poised for a year of explosive growth. Sources in the industry predict that revenues will double this year to around one hundred million Belize dollars on production of thirty-three point five million pounds of whole shrimp, or twenty-one point seven million pounds of processed tails. Prices remain favourable and are expected to stay that way. Shrimp farmers, with six thousand, five hundred acres of ponds in production, say that with a new genetic line that resists the dreaded Taura syndrome virus and expanded markets soon to open in Europe, the outlook is for farmed shrimp to become and remain Belize’s number one agricultural export for many years to come.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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