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No Industry Impact from BAL Fire, Says CEO

No Industry Impact from BAL Fire, Says CEO
February 02
10:55 2019 - REPORTER NEWSPAPER - Feb. 2nd. - 

It is not expected that the unfortunate industrial blaze that ravaged a section of Belize Aquaculture Limited (BAL) processing plant in the Stann Creek District to ashes on Monday evening will have any direct impact on the production output of the shrimp industry in Belize.

Ministry of Agriculture,
CEO Jose Alpuche

Late Wednesday evening, CEO in the Ministry of Agriculture Jose Alpuche confirmed to the Reporter that while the facility is a major production unit of the shrimp industry, it has not been operational for some time. Alpuche declared that in the interim the Ministry will be looking at increasing production at a gradual rate by having other processing plants increase their processing capacity.

“They are quite a major producer, but what has been impacted right now is just the processing plant. It is not the production unit. The hatchery and so remains intact so they will continue to produce. What will now happen is that one of the other processing plants will have to process for them. We have many others in the industry, facilities that can process the industry’s output right now since production is steadily growing,” Alpuche explained.

Following the fire which started around 2:00 p.m. on January 28th, sister company Bowen and Bowen Limited issued a press release confirming Alpuche’s statement – “The fire was contained in the Processing Plant, and the surrounding buildings were not damaged. The positive is that the hatchery and infrastructure including the ponds themselves are not affected so the scheduled production will still go ahead as planned.”

Bowen’s release on the fire additionally noted that no one was inside the plant when the fire blazed and so no injuries were reported. The company is, therefore, working on trying to establish where the fire originated, since the building had a rigid vent and smoke was first observed coming from the southern middle portion.

When fire personnel responded to the scene, the blaze was already out of control and so their main focus was to contain the fire in one of the buildings. The Fire Department also issued an advisory for residents of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa villages to be ready for evacuation due to the possible inhalation of toxic gases contained in the thick blankets of smoke, particularly ammonia and chlorine.

Residents, however, were not affected and Area Representative for Stann Creek West Rodwell Ferguson told the Reporter – “When I went on the grounds some of the villagers didn’t even realize that there was a fire. They saw some smoke but it did not spread inward to the village, so basically everything was normal.”

The alarming situation which could have been potentially deadly due to the emission of toxic smoke in the air also prompted the National Emergency Management Organization to kick its Southern Regional arm into motion. Fortunately, because the toxic smoke was dissipating at a high altitude and moving over and away from the communities, no mass evacuation was required and residents were just given information on how they could safeguard themselves at home while the smoke dissipated.

In March 2018 BAL was featured in the news after terminating 100 of its employees citing the high cost of operations and the outbreak of a disease that was damaging the entire shrimp industry.

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