Features — 23 November 2012 — by Adele Ramos

The multi-million-dollar red tilapia fish farm, Fresh Catch, inaugurated in 2002, is now on the auction block, according to a notice that has been published in the Amandala.

More than two years ago, in July 2010, the company, owned by the Mena family, was placed in receivership for a US$10.6 million loan with First Caribbean International Bank (Barbados) Ltd. and First Caribbean International Bank (Cayman) Limited.

This week’s notice from licensed auctioneer Kevin Castillo said that Fresh Catch Belize Limited will be sold on-site on Monday, December 3, 2012, at 1:30 p.m.

The sale includes more than 600 acres near La Democracia Village, plus the land upon which the fish farm sits – 610 acres with 45 ponds completed in 2004, 55 ponds completed in 2007, and 32 more ponds yet to be developed.

The mono-sex tilapia farm, which had been granted Export Processing Zone (EPZ) status, had been dubbed Belize’s main producer and exporter of tilapia, with exports of whole fish to Guatemala and Mexico and fillet exports to the US.

In 2008, production peaked at 4 million pounds (1,865 metric tons), netting US$3 million in foreign exchange, but dropped off the following year.

The bank tried to keep the fish farm as a “going concern,” and the Menas tried to find new financing arrangements to get their farm back.

The bankers had also put Wood Depot, another enterprise belonging to the Mena family, under receivership, but the family was able to reacquire that business in May through a new company named Wood Stop.

The Menas formed Nature Fresh Belize Limited in May 2011, through which it has been trying to regain control of Fresh Catch, but they have been unable to get the $15 million in financing needed.

Back in May, Emile Mena, one of the Mena directors, had indicated that the company was still trying to work out arrangements to reacquire the fish farm.

When we called Mena today, we were advised that he is in the US currently.

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