More steps taken to organise Guyana’s fisherfolk, support their livelihood

– says Minister Mustapha at relaunch of Fisherfolk Organisation

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha has said fisherfolk must be more cognisant of the key role they play in Guyana’s economic development, even as the Government continues to put measures in place to ensure their livelihoods. The Minister made this statement during the second national elections of the Guyana National Fisherfolk Organisation (GNFO) on Friday.

Representatives from the Upper Corentyne Fisherman Co-op Society, Rosignol Fishermen’s Co-op, Albion Landing Site, Tree Door Fishermen Co-op, D’Edward Fishermen Co-op, Parika Fisherman Co-op, Lima’s Fishers’ Association, and the Greater Georgetown Fisherman’s Co-op attended the exercise, which was held in the main boardroom at the Ministry.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

“This election of the Guyana National Fisherfolk’s Organisation is happening at an opportune time when the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government are encouraging our fisherfolk to become more aware of their role and responsibility, as well as your participatory approach in the fisheries management process.

When we look at the contribution of this sector to our country’s GDP it is tremendous. Our manifesto speaks to enhance support to fisherfolks and Co-op societies,” Minister Mustapha said

Minister Mustapha also said the Ministry is working to address several issues faced by fisherfolk as it relates to piracy and the granting of licences to Guyanese fishermen to fish in Suriname waters.

“This year, we’ve allocated large sums of money to develop the fishing industry. We’ve also acquired a fisheries monitoring vessel so that we can execute patrolling operations to protect our exclusive economic zone. We also recognise that our fisherfolks are severely affected by piracy. Only today I received reports of a recent attack on one of our fishing vessels by armed Venezuelans. We are now taking the necessary steps to procure equipment and recruit capable personnel to commence patrolling our Coast.

Government has also been working with our counterparts overseas to regularise the fishing industry. For example, with fisherfolks on the Corentyne, they have to depend on middle-men from Suriname who are charging exorbitant fees to get licences. Following a State visit last November, myself and the Minister of Agriculture in Suriname have been discussing ways to have our fishermen licenced to fish in the Surinamese water,” he said

Minister of Labour Joseph Hamilton

Meanwhile, Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton said Co-ops were established to serve the community and soon his Ministry will be putting the necessary systems in place to ensure that was done.

“Whatever you produce in a Co-op, whether it be fish or crops, what might determine how much markets you get or how much profits you get, might be as simple as putting it in a plastic bag. Everything I know suggests to me that co-operative societies have to periodically retool, remodel and modernise themselves. In order to be able to do that, I’ve instructed that the Ministry’s Co-op Department conduct an integrity audit of all co-op societies in this country.

We’ve advertised for auditors and 11 companies have shown interest so shortly we’ll have that audit done. It is not an ordinary annual audit. I want to know every aspect of the society. I’m told that presently we have 512 on the books. My assessment after the audit, will determine who lives and who dies because a Co-op an only live to serve the community. That is what it was created for,” Minister Hamilton said.  

Similar to the Guyana Rice Producers Association, the GNFO was officially formed in 2008 as an umbrella body to unite fisherfolk in Guyana. Preliminary works were done, but the organisation subsequently became dormant.

Chairman of the GNFO, Mr. Pamashwar Jainarine said the organisation is functioning, but not as effective as it should. He also outlined several issues it had faced in the past.

GNFO Chairman, Pamashwar Jainarine

“Some of the issues faced when the organisation was resuscitated in 2015 are the same issues we face now. These include inadequate boarding facilities, run-down wharfs, bad roads leading to some of the landing sites, lack of trained personnel managing the landing sites, poor markets and prices for our catch, and payment of VAT on items that were made to no longer attract VAT.

The GNFO members couldn’t deal with the issues. They were under the thought process that the former Minister of Agriculture would’ve assisted and after seeing that nothing was being done, they became frustrated and stopped attending meetings. We are functioning but not as we’d like. This is why we’ve embarked on a nationwide scoping exercise to bring more landing sites, or what we would say ‘the primary fisherfolk organizations’ into the GNFO,” Mr. Jainarine said.

A section of those in attendance

Minister Mustapha said the Government was working to ensure measures put in place to benefit fisherfolk were enforced. He noted that in the instance of VAT being charged for equipment for the fisheries sector and the agriculture sector in general, the Guyana Revenue Authority has been ordered to go after businesses that are yet to readjust their prices to reflect those reductions.

The Minister also said his Ministry would be working to address some of the issues faced by the GNFO, such as inadequate facilities and better prices and markets for fish and other seafood.

Mr. Vishnu Persaud and Mr. Veeram Ramsarran were among those elected to serve on the GNFO.