Guyana’s seafood sector has seen a contraction in exports to the United States with the introduction of new legislations put in place to promote US farm raised shrimp. These interventions have seen many local seafood companies suffering due to the reduced demand for their wild caught products.
Amidst this contraction, the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder has assured local fishers and processors that his ministry will be pulling out all the stops to acquire market opportunities and to ensure that their products are recognised for it’s quality.
Guyana’s fisheries sector contributes between US $70M and $80M annually to the economy.
Holder recently toured the operations of a number of seafood companies and assured officials there that government is working to remedy the situation.
The Ministry of Agriculture, through its Fisheries Department, has been working closely with local seafood organizations to not only develop mechanism to showcase the health benefits and promote the consumption of wild caught shrimp, but to implement traceability policies to ensure our industry is protected.
Minister Holder, while in dialogue with seafood officials, stated that he understands how international trade works and urged the suppliers to continue to produce quality products.
“With the information presented to me I understand that international buyers are protecting the interests of their economies and their economic growth. This means that we have to be creative with our delivery of our products. We know the negatives that come with consuming farm raised shrimp. The research is there. We have to be creative and show our consumers the benefits of using wild caught as against using farm raised.” Minister Holder said.
Managing Director of Gopie Investments Inc., Raoul Gopie, said that even though his organization has received a lot of cooperation from the Fisheries Department, the change in the demand for wild caught shrimp in the US has affected his operations.
“My largest clients are in the US. In 2017, we shipped about 70 containers of shrimp to various states. With the new legislations in place to protect US shrimp producers, who I must add are mostly supplying farm raised shrimp, my business has been negatively impacted.” Mr. Gopie said.
Gopie did however indicate that they are in the process of acquiring a license to export to European territories.
Another major player in the seafood sector in Guyana, Noble House Seafood sighted many challenges with security and stated that measures had to be put in place to reduce the incidences of theft and losses.
Noble House Seafood’s Operations Manager, Richard Jodah stated that they have had instances where employees would sell their produce to smaller fishermen.
“Often times we find out employees are selling portions of the catch to smaller fishermen. Even with the installation of security systems, although this has been reduced, it still remains a problem. We need measures put in place to mandate these ‘road side’ seafood venders to say where they are getting these amounts and quality of produce from, because we know they do not have the vessels to go out and catch these fish and shrimp themselves.” Mr. Jodah said.
Minister Holder noted that his ministry is currently working with sister agencies to ensure the Food Safety Bill is passed. He stated that with this legislation in place, traceability and accountability within the sector will be improved.