By Nafeeza Yahya
THE East Berbice-Corentyne Agriculture Association staged a protest on Wednesday on the Miss Pheobe Public Road,Port Mourant, Corentyne, East Berbice, calling on the authorities for more support to combat smuggling of shrimp from neighbouring Suriname.The protest, which was held in the vicinity of the Trainline Dam, saw about 30 fishermen representing the various fishing villages across East Berbice-Corentyne and was held to raise awareness of the challenges and disadvantages they face as a result of the illegal act.
According to Secretary of the organisation, Seudat Persaud, the protest was intended to make vendors aware of the problem and not resell the smuggled produce.
“This protest is to let the authorities know we have a concern; we carry this battle for 15 years.
“The Customs agency always say they don’t have resources like vehicles and stuff; we the farmers have to go and apprehend these smugglers then the police and customs come so we are encountering some great difficulties, especially for the past year and we need help …plus people need to know about this so they can stop supporting the smugglers.”
Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, addressed the issue of smuggling while attending a function to observe National Fisher Folk day at the #66 Co-op Society base on the Corentyne.
“The smuggling of shrimp, fish and fish products in and out of the country affects us all. In addition, the smuggling of shrimp and fish into Guyana has the potential to generate many problems such as the introduction of pests and diseases into our environment. Fish not inspected by the health authorities many very well not be fit for human consumption and can cause many health problems in our population. So while you [may] be getting a cheaper commodity, you may be damaging your health and the health of your family.”
Ronald Arjune, a fisherman from Whim who rears both shrimp and tilapia for both local and international markets, said he is feeling the impact of the commodity on the market as his revenue has declined significantly after being forced to lower prices.
“We have to sustain our children, they have to go to school. It’s not easy …this Suriname shrimp that is coming here is of bad quality and it would affect the entire country and several parts of the world they are fooling consumers.
“Some people are passing the shrimp off as Guyana shrimp.”
Another fisherman “Rakesh” chipped in saying, “This shrimp go out to all parts of the world and many people have a bad experience with it and them labelling Guyana for the bad quality.
“If it continues this way it will cripple the shrimp industry and we are the ones who will suffer.
“We are calling on the relevant agencies to look into this situation urgently so these issues of smuggling can be addressed.”
Persaud said while the organisation has made some strides recently with support from the Government and other agencies, they need more tangible help, especially with vehicles to be able to track and apprehend smugglers whenever they are on the move.
“We need more resources, especially vehicles and boats to catch the smugglers in the act. That is the help we need; right now we using our own vehicles and stuff, but that not enough.
“We need the help, so please let the relevant authorities look into this matter please.”