Govt., aquaculture farmers roast IDB over funding delay
By Leonard Gildarie
A major project to promote aquaculture export is stalled with a number of farmers claiming lost opportunities and the government expressing its frustration at delays on the part of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
The project, under the Ministry of Agriculture’s (MOA) Agriculture Export Diversification Program (ADP) is funded by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) with the objective of promoting export of aquaculture products including tilapia, shrimp and tambaqui (pacu).
A number of farmers, from the West Demerara, Corentyne, Berbice and Mahaicony explained that they were promised funding to expand their operations yet one year has passed without them receiving a cent.
Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, acknowledged that he is concerned about delays and indicated that the matter is being addressed with the IDB over its delay.
Farmers explained that under the ADP, farmers and the MOA have formed the Aquaculture Cluster for export development of aquaculture products.
During the course of this formation, farmers have been advised by the MOA that the IDB has agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry Ltd (GBTI Ltd), which will execute the Agricultural Diversification Fund (ADF). The ADF is expected to provide a mix of grants and low-interest loans to the Aquaculture Cluster, among other Clusters. This type of financing is anticipated to help in reducing the cost of capital to businesses.
This ADF is also expected to finance the implementation of private sector business plans in the Aquaculture Cluster, among other clusters. Financing is expected to target working capital needs as well as building minimal asset capacity that will allow the businesses and groups to grow on a sound and sustainable footing.
However, the farmers said, they are yet to receive any funding due to suggestion by the IDB that Tilapia can be harmful to the environment. The farmers said that they were advised that the IDB is not yet satisfied with the business plans presented so no funds for the ADF has yet been released to the GBTI to begin the assessment of farmers requests for the credits and grants.
According to the farmers, they had invested heavily in anticipation of the funding.
“Dem now telling us that they do some study on tilapia and we have to implement some measures before they approve our plans due to environmental reasons. How is this fair?”
According to the farmers, the long drawn out process associated with the release of funds for the ADF is affecting the cluster work arrangement and Guyana moving to develop acquaculture.
Under this arrangement, farmers have to band themselves into groups before they could access the funds.
Some cluster members have started their aquaculture activities and would have already purchased significant fish stocks.
“We were told that when we put in the business plan, they would shortly issue the funds to buy feed and things. Now dem put more restrictions after we done do all that they ask for,” a Berbice farmer said.
The lack of funds has resulted in a reduced feed supply, thereby negatively affecting growth of fish stock, and consequently, causing farmers to lose significant income.
In other cases, farmers have constructed ponds, and are awaiting project funds to purchase breeding stock for commencement of fry and fingerling production.
In the case of some shrimp farmers, the planned works are weather dependent, the farmers explained.
These works include desilting of ponds, rebuilding of dams and repair and construction of inlet and outlet structures. The lack of funds at this time when the weather is suitable for the implementation of these critical activities means the loss of an important opportunity.
“We losing money everyday. How IDB say tilapia is bad for Guyana when it introduced in Guyana in the 1940’s. Other countries rearing aquaculture and it ain’t got no effect on the environment,” one Mahaicony farmer questioned.
Government has been tapping aquaculture as another means of creating job opportunities and entering into a lucrative overseas market.