KINGSTON: Over 40 local business people turned out last week for a seminar on aquaculture organized by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) to look at the investment prospects in the Jamaican tilapia industry against the backdrop of rising global trade and demand for tilapia.
Vice president of export and market development at JAMPRO, Robert Scott, told the gathering at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites in Kingston, that aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system in the world with major business opportunities.
“The timing of this seminar underscores the significance of this industry to Jamaica’s economy and more importantly, the nation’s food security,” he said.
Scott said the aquaculture industry is recognized by the National Export Strategy as one of Jamaica’s best performing non-traditional exports.
“The aquaculture industry is a key component for Jamaica’s growth and should also be a focus area for import substitution and a leader for export markets as the demands for these products continue to increase,” he said.
Vivian Brown, permanent secretary in the ministry of industry, investment and commerce, commended the work done by JAMPRO in encouraging investment discussions in this sector.
“It is our hope that there will emerge a new cadre of local investors and exporters, who will jump at the opportunities to create wealth from the production and trade of Jamaican tilapia, for which there is significant and growing global demand,” he said.
Jamaica currently spends almost US$70 million annually importing fish products, which is putting local food security at risk.
Brown said his ministry is particularly supportive of increasing activity in the aquaculture industry, especially local tilapia. According to Brown, the aquaculture market is large, with local needs for households, restaurants and hotels, while the global market for seafood has shown growth since 2011.
“With marine fish stock in the Caribbean declining due to pollution, habitat destruction and international poaching, we have to look to aquaculture to substitute traditional seafood sources and as a source of foreign exchange for the country.
“There is a vibrant ornamental fish industry for which there is a huge international market, and the government of Jamaica is now moving to facilitate the resuscitation of the edible aquaculture industry for the local and export markets,” he said.
Aquaculture, also known as fish or shellfish farming, refers to the breeding, rearing and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments.
Spikes in global demand, coupled with growing consumption trends in the domestic market for tilapia, have spawned new opportunities for investors in the Jamaican tilapia fish-farming industry.
Global sales of aquaculture tilapia were estimated at US$5.7 billion in 2010 as production of all species of tilapia moved from 1.5 million tons in 2003 to 4.2 million tons in 2012.