Agri Minister hopeful of catfish ban removal by year end

Minister of Agriculture, Hon.  Zulfikar Mustapha has said he is optimistic that the ban on catfish export to the United States will be lifted soon.

While speaking with Berbice residents during an outreach, Minister Mustapha revealed that recently he discussed the issue with officials from the US Embassy and was hopeful of a positive outcome.

“I’m very optimistic that before the end of the year, we can have the ban lifted on catfish… so that fisherfolk can export the commodity,” he said.

The ban on wild-caught catfish was imposed on Guyana in September 2017 due to its failure to adhere to new standards imposed by the US Department of Agriculture. The regulations required that Guyana catch and transport catfish to a processing plant while still alive.

The Minister iterated that Guyanese in the diaspora depend on the supply of that commodity from Guyana.  “That is a very lucrative industry for us, that is a $1.8 billion industry,” he said. 

Since assuming office in August the Government has engaged the US on lifting the ban. President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali and US Secretary of State, Mr. Michael Pompeo discussed the issue during Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Guyana in September. 

Meanwhile, the Agriculture Minister has committed to improving the aquaculture sector. He asked the agriculture extension officers to provide the requisite guidance to the fishing industry as steps are being taken to revitalise it. He also tasked Chief Fisheries Officer, Mr. Denzil Roberts, with bringing together all the fisherfolk to formulate a policy for the local aquaculture industry.

“So, we can work with them. We can give them the kind of support needed so we can develop this important industry,” the Minister said. He also revealed that the Ministry has bought a vessel for patrolling in the area which it is considering doing regionally.