Aquaculture for all

Guyana Aquaculture Initiated with Tilapia Hatchery


GUYANA - A tilapia hatchery has been commissioned at Maharaja farm, with a projected output of more than one million fry per month.

The agriculture ministry said last week that it had commissioned the first phase of the tilapia hatchery at the Maharaja Integrated Farm as efforts move apace to cement plans to establish Guyana as a supplier of farm-bred fish in the agriculture diversification plan.

Stabroek News reports that the hatchery was commissioned after Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud ,activated the aerator for the pond where the first set of super male breed stock of tilapia was housed. The hatchery will help aquaculture pioneers to rear tilapia and other types of fish, a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) said.

The minister was accompanied to the Cove and John facility by Chico Persaud, Proprietor of the Maharaja Oil Mill, Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Carol Horning and Chief Fisheries Officer, Vivek Joshi. The new hatchery is one example of the joint partnership involving National Aquaculture Association of Guyana (NAAG), USAID/Guyana Trade and Investment Support project and the ministry which seeks to promote farm-raised seafood as Guyana’s newest crop.

At the Maharaja Integrated Farm, the ponds are built on the lands surrounding the oil mill that had once been used for cultivating rice, cash crops and a dairy farm. A decision was taken to establish a hatchery for the production of Red and Nile tilapia fingerlings. The ministry then provided an excavator to start digging the ponds and the different species of tilapia: the Mozam-bique, Nile and Jamaican Red Tilapia were bred.

In his address, Mr Persaud said the farm's success is due to its management team which satisfied the three most important elements needed to develop aquaculture: ponds, fingerlings and feed. He also said the ruling PPP had discussed developing this type of farming with the international community, including the Inter-American Development Bank and it was included in the agriculture diversification strategy.

Mr Persaud added: "Aquaculture now is a central and important element in our agri-diversification. It is no longer treated as an afterthought, it is mainstreamed in our agriculture diversification project."

According to the minister, two major initiatives that will make a huge impact on aquaculture are already in the making: completing the negotiations with a German firm to develop the type of agribusiness support needed for an aquaculture commodity chain estimated to cost about $195 million. He said from that amount, $65 million will be allocated to aquaculture development in the area of market support, research and business plan development.

"Another project was completed about two weeks ago with an Italian investor who is expected to be in Guyana to develop a modern animal health system in which aquaculture will play an important part," Mr Persaud noted.

Breeding fingerlings

The Hapas method will be the main technique implemented for breeding fingerlings, according to Stabroek News. It is a process whereby one male fingerling is placed in a Hapas with three females specifically for reproduction purposes. Following this process, the Hapas will be taken out of the ponds and the fertilised eggs lodged in the females mouth will be extracted and incubated into fries (just spawned fish). Chico Persaud said using this method, the recovery rate is expected to be 100 per cent.

"We are approaching this hatchery with as much simplicity as possibility, given the magnitude of aquaculture education in Guyana. The trick to its success, is running water to keep the eggs in motion," Mr Persaud explained.

According to GINA, the optimum production of fries is expected to exceed one million per month which will be adequate to supply foreign orders for fingerlings, which Mr Persaud explained will take off the excess which local farmers may not be able to rear. Explaining the biological nature of the tilapia, the proprietor said it was discovered that the male grows larger, heavier and more uniformly than the female due to reproduction activities. About 16.45 million fingerlings will be produced yearly, which will create about 1,200 new jobs in the aquaculture and supporting industries.

Meanwhile, the USAID Mission Director said much of its projects are modelled after work done in Jamaica in the 1970s when it provided technical assistance and inputs for a start-up in the aquaculture industry. This has resulted in Jamaica producing about 6,000 tonnes of aquaculture products. In Guyana, with the advantages of abundant water and consistent climate, Horning there is an even greater potential and USAID is willing to work with Guyana to make it a reality.

According to GINA, the fisheries sector contributes about two to three per cent to Guyana's gross domestic product (GDP), but the chief fisheries officer said it has also been challenged by limited resources and over-fishing. Nevertheless, Mr Joshi said the fisheries sector provides almost 13,000 jobs, with fish holding the reputation as the most highly consumed commodity. In this regard, the aquaculture sector provides viable opportunities as it presents an option for agriculture diversification away from the traditional rice and sugar.

"Aquaculture is also a prime area of development in a low carbon economy," Mr Joshi said.

The next step

Stabroek News report that phase two of the integrated farm will incorporate growing crops for the export market and using the waste water from the fish ponds to irrigate these plants. This model of integration is expected to influence farmers to follow similar lines of development and realize the benefits of alternative farming methods. The planners envisage completion in four to six weeks.

GINA said the final phase is still being negotiated. It mirrors the first phase in which a breeding programme for sheep and feed-lot for lambs are proposed. Chico Persaud said his company will vigorously pursue efforts later on this year to regenerate interest in the aquaculture sector aimed at expanding the industry to assist in the diversification of agriculture. Rice farmers will be targeted during the rotational crop and as marine fish become scarce and more expensive.

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