Archive for June 23rd, 2010

Turtle Farm cash injection up

| 23/06/2010 | 16 Comments

Cayman Islands News, Grand Cayman headline news, Cayman Turtle Farm(CNS): Despite job cuts and an increase in the price of turtle meat, Boatswain Beach, Cayman Turtle Farm has still received a government subsidy of over $9.6 million. The increase of more than half a million on last year’s cash injection was revealed in the 2010/11 budget documents. According to the managing director, the demand for meat at the farm has fallen as a result of the price increase. This reduction in demand has relieved the pressure on the facility, which is struggling with a number of problems related to the breeding programme.  Tim Adam explained some of the issues during Monday’s session of Finance Committee when legislators agreed to the farm’s $9,688,889 equity investment. (Photo Dennie Warren Jr)

Adam said there were no plans to reduce the price of meat in the near future as it was clear demand was sensitive to price and until the farm could improve the hatchling rates and their subsequent survival and lower the productions costs the farm had to keep demand down.

“We could never have produced enough turtle meat to fill the demand at the price it was at,” Adam told the Finance Committee when asked by the Leader of the Opposition about lowering the price in the short term. Adam said that while the price would be reviewed on a regular basis, until the dwindling hatchling rate could be improved the farm could not risk increasing the demand. The MD said the level was now sustainable, giving the facility room to engage in a review of the turtles in the breeding ponds as well as the nutrition to try and improve the egg rates. “The good news is that turtle is now available for those that want it,” he added.
In the past demand far outstripped the farm’s ability to harvest and produce the meat because of the breeding problems, which, Adam said, would have put the future of the facility in jeopardy. He explained that there are only around 7,000 turtles at the farm at present when there had been over 20,000 before the original turtle farm suffered significant losses in Hurricane Mitch in the 1990s. The farm had to significantly improve the stock before there could be an adjustment to price, he said.
Adam explained that the sale of meat accounted for around only 10% of the revenue at Boatswain Beach. Coupled with unrealistic past prices of less than half of what it actually cost to produce, the sale of turtle meat, although of cultural significance, was never going to save the facility.
The question of exporting turtle products, such as the oil which could be very valuable, as well as goods made from the shells, was also discussed. Currently banned under the CITES regulations, Adam explained that the farm had to eliminate any trace of wild turtles from the breeding and harvesting chain if it were to ever be possible.
He said if the farm reached a point of certainty that it was harvesting only second and third generation farmed turtles, there was a hope that the international authorities would look more favourably on the Cayman Turtle Farm Ltd and allow it to export products. Adam said at present there was still some question, despite the farm believing it had done everything right, of the current breeders having originated from the wild. He said the facility had to reach a point where it could demonstrate that the turtles harvested were generation after generation from the farm.
Any turtles that could not be proved to have been farmed were being removed from the breeding pool, Adam explained, and replaced by farmed turtles.  
The primary goal, Adam told the committee, was to improve turtle numbers and according to the budget document the farm has a target in this financial year to improve hatchling rates by 230% and grow the herd numbers by 5,000.

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