Press Release – Gov’t intervention already showing positive ripple effect in Fisheries Sector

dialogue with US ‘favourable’ as Gov’t remains optimistic that catfish ban could be lifted soon

With Government moving swiftly to restore life to the productive sectors, stakeholders in the Fisheries sector have expressed gratitude for the immediate measures put in place to significantly reduce the cost of production.

During a tour of the Pritipaul Singh Investments (PSI) Incorporated’s Fish and Tuna Processing Facility today, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha reaffirmed Government’s commitment to reviving the agriculture sector.

“Over the last five years, almost all the areas that make up the agriculture sector have declined tremendously. We’ve seen some amount of deterioration in the productive sector due to gross neglect and mismanagement at all levels. When we came into office, we basically had to start all over again because if you cannot produce, you cannot generate wealth. This is why, with this emergency budget, we’ve reversed things like land rental rates, drainage and irrigation charges and removed VAT from agriculture inputs to their 2014 to early 2015 costs,” Minister Mustapha said.

PSI Incorporated, which also has operations in Suriname and Miami, was established in 1999. Over the years, the company was able to increase their operations to become one of Guyana’s largest seafood exporters. With over 1500 persons employed in Guyana, the company currently exports to countries like China, Europe and the US, among others.

Additionally, PSI Incorporated also supports the local fisheries sector, purchasing catch from small scale fishermen across the country.

Minister Mustapha noted that with over 15,000 people directly involved in the fisheries sector, companies like PSI Incorporated play a major role in ensuring small scale fishermen also have an income. He reassured Government’s commitment to supporting companies like PSI to secure new markets so that they can continue to ensure markets for small fishermen.

“The Ministry of Agriculture, through the Fisheries Department, will do our best to promote you within the fisher-folk community so that the small men can have a ready and stable market for their produce. I am also very impressed with your processing operation. This is a model operation and with the contribution that it’s making in terms of creating employment for people, rest assured that Government will continue to support you. With the investment you are making, this will have a direct impact on the economy. As a Government we recognise the contribution of the fisheries sector, that is why we immediately put measures in place so that the harsh systems implemented by the previous administration can be reversed and the productive sectors can ultimately reduce their cost of production. With these measures, businesses can now have more resources to expand their operations and improve the welfare of their employees,” Minister Mustapha said.

Proprietor of the operation, Mr. Pritipaul Singh expressed his satisfaction with the steps Government has taken to bring some amount of relief to persons looking to invest and expand their operations.

“In 2014-2015, licences were GY$36,000 per boat. Now its GY$500,000 and that’s a huge jump. The effects of global warming have, over the years, had a tremendous effect on the fisheries sector. My production for the last two years has decreased by 50 per cent, but our input costs remain the same. With all these challenges we are facing it’s been very hard to survive. All the materials used during my daily operations were VAT inclusive. This is why I was pleased with the decision taken by Government to remove the VAT from agriculture-related materials,” Mr. Singh said.

He added that, with the measures put in place now, the added incentives his company stands to receive will result in added incentive for his workers in the form of increased wages and salaries.

Lifting the ban on catfish export to the US

With the ban on export of catfish species to the Unites States of America still affecting fishermen across the country, Minister Mustapha said that he remains optimistic that Government will soon have the ban lifted.

“During my first engagement with our heads of departments, I informed them that one of the main goals of the Government as it pertains to the agriculture sector, was to have this ban lifted. Many persons were doubtful. I know for a fact that the previous administration made no progress in this regard. When the US Secretary of State came to Guyana, His Excellency, President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali and I were able to engage him on it. Since then, we’ve been having constant meetings with US officials to address the issue. There is another meeting scheduled for next week and I am very optimistic that we will soon have this ban lifted. That is a $1.8 billion industry and we have to work to ensure we regain that market,” Minister Mustapha said.

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