Ja's ornamental fish industry gets $multimillion boost
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
JAMAICA'S FLEDGLING ornamental fish industry got a significant boost following the recent signing of a grant agreement under which US$500,000 will be provided to improve its ability to efficiently deliver quality ornamental aquatic products to international buyers at competitive prices.
The money which was donated by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), UKaid and the Canadian International Development Agency will be channelled through Compete Caribbean, which will spend the money on behalf of the Jamaica Ornamental Fish Cluster.
Nicardo Neil of The Competitive Company, which, under its Ornamental Fish Farming Project started in 2010, has engaged some 150 young men and women in more than 50 inner-city communities who have been trained in various aspects of production and trade of these fish, explained the purpose of the grant.
"One of the components is the establishment of an export facility, so they are going to spend the money required to buy the equipment and material and to set up the export facility. You will then have a lot more capacity to hold and quarantine fish, which is very important because quarantining is important for the disease status of the fish, and also for the holding capacity to ensure that there is always somewhere for the farmers to unload their fish. Because the longer they have it in their possession, the more it costs them, so as soon as the fish reach export size, they can sell it and get it off their hands."
Some of the money will also go towards expanding the variety of fish species bred, as well as market research in order to expand the international customer base, with most of the ornamental fish produced locally being sold on the domestic market.
Some 1.5 billion ornamental fish are sold on the global market each year with a trade value of US$400 million. Most of these pet fish are bred for export to North America and Europe, a market for which the Jamaicans who produced an estimated 400,000 fish last year are working to supply some 1.2 million fish. While this target represents just about one per cent of global demand, if achieved it would make ornamental fish the country's third most valuable agricultural foreign-exchange earner behind sugar and coffee.