Rural Community Benefits From Freshwater Fish Company

Photo: Marlon Tingling Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. JC Hutchinson (centre); and Mayor of Black River, Councillor Derrick Sangster (left); listen keenly as Farm Manager at Algix Jamaica Limited, Noel Thompson (right) explains the features of the Basa fish being held by the Minister, during a tour of the company’s plant in Barton Isle, St. Elizabeth on January 20.

Story Highlights

  • Algix Jamaica Limited, a three-year-old freshwater fish company located in Barton Isle, St. Elizabeth, is contributing significantly to Jamaica’s food security drive and providing employment for several community members.
  • The company, whose main investors are based in the United States of America, operates on 338 acres of land, growing two species of fish - the tilapia and the Pangasius, better known as basa. Some 100 residents of Barton Isle and adjoining communities are employed on the farm and in the fish-processing facility.
  • Managing Director of Algix Jamaica Limited, Maurice Reynolds, tells JIS News that operations have been progressing better than expected with the introduction of the basa fish, bringing more excitement and a higher level of production to the farm.

Algix Jamaica Limited, a three-year-old freshwater fish company located in Barton Isle, St. Elizabeth, is contributing significantly to Jamaica’s food security drive and providing employment for several community members.

The company, whose main investors are based in the United States of America, operates on 338 acres of land, growing two species of fish – the tilapia and the Pangasius, better known as basa.

Some 100 residents of Barton Isle and adjoining communities are employed on the farm and in the fish-processing facility.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, who toured the plant recently, tells JIS News that Algix is playing a major role in moving Jamaica back on the international scene as a country that produces top quality freshwater fish.

Mr. Hutchinson says he is particularly impressed with the efficient state-of-the-art operations in the fish-processing plant.

“It’s a very good processing facility…It’s of a very high standard. They need more production here, because the demand is great out there. This facility is one that I think can go to the international market,” he adds.

“What we need to do is to see how we can expand the aquaculture area. It’s one where we have roughly 2,000 acres of ponds out there where it seems the farmers have abandoned them. Algix is looking to see if they can get some of these farmers to start again. They would provide them with the fingerlings and purchase the fish,” the Minister points out.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Peter Thompson, tells JIS News that small farmers and at least one educational institution could soon be included in the company’s operations.

“I am amazed to see what has been taking place, because I believe that agriculture is not just about plants and animals, but also livestock and fish falls into that category. I see Algix Farm going very big from here and I believe that engaging small farmers with ponds would increase production,” he notes.

For his part, Managing Director of Algix Jamaica Limited, Maurice Reynolds, tells JIS News that operations have been progressing better than expected with the introduction of the basa fish, bringing more excitement and a higher level of production to the farm.

Mr. Reynolds says members of the communities adjoining the Barton Isle facility, including employees and purchasers, have been expressing delight that the project is in operation, bringing value to the area after years of inactivity.

He adds that it was a stroke of genius when directors of the company decided to experiment with the growing of the basa fish, a decision which is paying high dividends.

“This fish has never been grown commercially in Jamaica or anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. This fish is a very protected species in Asia. It is valued at about US$1.9 billion to that economy. The market for this fish is almost limitless,” Mr. Reynolds says.

Farm Manager at Algix, Noel Thompson, is also upbeat about the operations at the farm and the processing facility.

“We are in full production at this time. We started out with the Red Tilapia and at the moment we do between 50,000 and 70,000 kilograms per month. Basa is just ready now for the market. We have at least 100,000 kilograms of basa ready. We expect to put out at least 50 tonnes or 50,000 kilograms on a monthly basis. Once the export starts, we will expand even further,” he tells JIS News.

Procurement and Logistics Manager, Raldene Reynolds, who is tasked with the responsibility of equipping the farm and factory, as well as to deal with imports and exports at Algix, says he is satisfied that the company has been creating long-term, sustainable jobs for Jamaicans, while ensuring that viability returns to the local fishing sector.

“The fish business is not something seasonal like other traditional agricultural crops. A facility of this size will have as much as 400 members of staff on one shift. It is a very big economic thing here for the community. We have a product that the entire world wants. Basa is considered as the sixth most consumed fish in the world,” Mr. Reynolds tells JIS News.

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