Trouble at Nova – operations suspended
Reports to Amandala are that Nova Companies Belize Limited, touted as the country’s largest shrimp farm, formally suspended operations after the New Year due to an ongoing debt crisis and a possible foreclosure by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank group.
In July 1998, IFC loaned Nova, located at 12.5 miles on the Northern Highway, Ladyville, Belize District, US$6 million.
According to the IFC, the loan was intended “to strengthen shrimp farming as an industry.”
The total estimated cost of Nova’s expansion project for its Ladyville and Ambergris Caye development was US$15.2 million. It was supposed to triple the shrimp growing area and add an in-house hatchery to boost larva stock, and the profit margin was forecast to increase by 19%. The development was also supposed to create 85 new jobs. But things have not been going as well as projected.
Today, there are 550 jobs in limbo – 50 full time staff, along with roughly 250 farm workers and 250 processing workers, whose numbers fluctuate depending on the production volume.
Our sources say that the company has been grappling with its finances for years—a problem attributed to the devastation of the Taura Syndrome Virus, a deadly shrimp epidemic, as well as plummeting world prices, which have—incidentally—begun to look more promising.
The company continues to be haunted by accumulated debt, and has been negotiating with both bankers and prospective investors to try to save the company.
Unfortunately, since the suspension we have not been able to reach company officials for comment, and the head honcho we were referred to yesterday was “on vacation” by this evening. This evening we were told that he and a majority of the office staff were on “holiday” but would return next week.
Meanwhile, other top officials were reportedly in office but were unavailable to speak with us, we were told.
Nova has been one of Belize’s leading exporters of farmed shrimp. It was founded 17 years ago.