Following the recent launch of Grandeast Seafood Inc, a US$25M Chinese company with a sprawling facility at Garden of Eden on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD), there has been growing concern about the impact this entity would have on Guyana’s fish stock. The apprehension is fueled in particular by reports from some stakeholders in the fisheries industry that there is no surplus in the said stock. Some have even noted that more entrants in the sector with huge appetites, could prove problematic.
Taking this into consideration, the Ministry of Agriculture has sought to assure that the nation’s fishing supply is being properly managed while adding that such fears are pretty much unfounded. In fact, the Ministry’s Public Relations Officer, Janell Cameron, in a letter to the editor, was keen to note that the Chinese Owned seafood processing plant’s operations will not negatively affect the overall seabob industry. Cameron explained that Grandeast Inc. is currently only processing one specific species of shrimp – Nematopalaemon schmitti also known as the ‘white belly’ shrimp. She said that the company is not involved in the processing of other types of seafood at this time while adding that Grandeast Inc. is providing a market for a product that is usually discarded or dried in somewhat unsanitary conditions in Guyana.
The PRO said it is important to note that the species in question, because of its size, takes a very long time to shell manually so local fisherfolk would usually discard them.
Furthermore, the official said that Grandeast Inc. has increased the income of its suppliers by increasing the cost per bucket of ‘white belly’ shrimp from $500 and $800 per bucket to $1000 per bucket.
Additionally, the PRO said that Grandeast Inc. has the capacity to process 40 tonnes of shrimp per day. “This does not mean that they do, as the company is currently engaging other fisherfolk to supply the desired species of shrimp,” Cameron stated.
With respect to those in the media who have sought to raise an alarm over the matter without being armed with the facts, Cameron said the public should know that Grandeast Inc. was granted its license to operate under the previous APNU/AFC Administration. “After reviewing the company’s file, it was discovered that it had been granted permission from the responsible agencies from as far back as August of 2019. After permission was granted and the facility was built, the Fisheries Department granted permission to operate to Grandeast Inc. on February 11th, 2020,” the PRO stated while adding that one should question why the Ministry did not come under fire then.
Another important point Cameron said the public should bear in mind is that the new processing facility is dedicated to aquaculture and its development in Guyana as against wild-caught fish. She said too that the new plant was designed to process fish species that are grown in cultured/controlled environments, and as such, the operators have signaled their interest to purchase fish species such as tilapia amongst others.
At the Ministry of Agriculture, Cameron was keen to note that one of its aims is to foster development of the fishing industry. Cameron reiterated that government has made it clear that Guyana is open to foreign direct investments and has been partners with many countries for decades, China included. These investments must benefit citizens and this is a clear example of such, the PRO concluded.