Once upon a time, Belize’s GDP was 7 percent attributable to the fishing industry. The industry contributed to second place in the country’s GDP. That time, Belize had a large and well-established fishing industry. However, the fishing industry was completely destroyed, with Belize’s famous shrimp literally disappearing from the market as a major contributing factor. Its contribution to GDP dropped to just over 1%.
But, it seems that the shrimp king is returning to reclaim its throne. As per media reports, Belize is making efforts to revive its shrimp dormant industry, which up until 2014 generated close to BDZ$100 million in revenue (1 BDZ = US$0.49 cents).
Reportedly, a Shrimp Industry Task Force is established by the Agriculture Minister, Jose Mai. Hugh O’Brien, chairman of the shrimp industry task force, will be in charge of a diverse team from the public and private sectors over the course of the next three months.
According to O’Brien, emphasis will be placed on adopting cutting-edge technologies that will help local farms increase shrimp production.
Reviving the dead
For Belize, a revived shrimp industry is the need of the hour to re-boost the economy. It can take advantage of several export markets, including Taiwan, whose government has already expressed interest in purchasing Belize’s shrimp.
There was a time when Belize’s shrimp was one of the most reputed and preferred shrimps by several nations. Back in 2014, the industry reached a high production level, reaching almost 16 million pounds of shrimp.
Belize, then, was a major exporter of shrimp. The nation exported close to BDZ$100 million worth of shrimp. Unfortunately, the industry was hit with early mortality syndrome, and shrimps became contaminated. The industry collapsed, and the country lost millions in shrimp exports. That is, 94 or 95 million pounds of shrimp, to the point where production has barely been enough to meet local demand.
The industry has been laying dormant since then. But, the economic distress of Belize has forced Belmopan to take up the cudgels.
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The economic struggle and problems ahead
The economy of Belize is a mixture of high levels of public debt, a large trade deficit, and slow growth. However, the government has taken steps to address these issues by implementing reforms to increase revenue and reduce public spending. Additionally, the tourism industry has shown signs of recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall, the situation in Belize’s economy is complex and may involve both challenges and opportunities. This might be the reason why Belize is now eager to revive its dead shrimp industry.
Is it going to be a walk in the park? Absolutely not.
The global shrimp industry is plagued with problems. Important environmental groups have often chastised the ill-managed release of massive amounts of pollutants such as salt, antibiotics, and biological waste that devastate the surrounding habitats. These factors affect the quality of shrimp.
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On the other hand, the 16 known shrimp farms in Belize have now been reduced to 7. Additionally, Belize lacks the necessary infrastructure to resume the fishing of these shrimps.
Clearly, it will be a challenge for Belize ahead to address all these issues and revive the industry. However, if the nation manages to pull its revamping plans off, it will surely cure Belmopan’s ailing economy.
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