— protest smuggling of shrimp, tilapia from Suriname
The East Berbice/Corentyne Aquaculture Association on Friday protested in front of the Office of the Prime Minister’s regional representative in Port Mourant, Region Six over what they deem illegal entry of shrimp and tilapia from Suriname.
The fisherfolk say the flooding of local markets with shrimp and tilapia from the neighbouring country is causing unfair competition and health concerns for Guyanese.
Secretary of the Association Suedat Persaud said the smuggling has been going on since the former administration was in power, and from then to now, the number of smugglers has increased.
He said his members sought an audience then with the relevant authorities but were unsuccessful; however, they did manage to meet with President Granger in 2015 and he mandated the Ministry of Agriculture to look into the matter.
According to Persaud, the police and the association was working together to help stop the smuggling, but they lacked the resources to successfully stop the increasing number of smugglers.
The smugglers reportedly bring in approximately 2400 pounds of shrimp and tilapia daily as opposed to approximately 500 pounds a few years ago.
Persaud explained that the smugglers come in daily at various point across the coast and distribute the shrimp and tilapia to the homes of the vendors who either stores it until the next day or begin selling ‘straight away’.
One protester said because of the large volume of shrimp daily, the vendors are unable to successfully sell off the shrimp on the same day, causing them to spoil.
However, instead of discarding the shrimp, the vendors continue to sell the shrimp on the local market, posing a health risk to the consumers.
The protester also explained that the vendors when approached by consumers about the spoilt product, say the local dealers are to be blamed.
“When the shrimp spoil them a tell them people that them get am from somebody fish farm in Guyana and that cause everybody fuh believe that the shrimp that come out of Guyana is no good.”
NO OVERHEAD COSTS
The protestors also lamented that the smugglers do not have any overhead costs associated with the rearing of fish or shrimp and sell at a price below the cost of production in Guyana.
“In Suriname they have a big swamp where anyone can go and catch the shrimp, so they are selling it at $4000 per bucket since them don’t have to pay anything. Here we have to pay $1.4M a year for our license, pay to excavate and empoulder our ponds, pay people to harvest them as well as sell and make a profit. We have families and loans to pay and maintain. The Government gets revenue from us and it is unfair for them to come in and sell for less than what it cost to produce and then the Government loses revenue and Suriname gains. It is unfair,” said Ronald Arjune, a fish farmer from Whim.
The protestors are calling on the authorities to look into the matter and impose strict penalties to deter others from joining the already growing population of smugglers.
The fisherfolk are suggesting that the vendors be held responsible since they are the distributors of the illegal produce.
“I believe they should charge the vendors because if they don’t have enough resources to capture the boats when they come in then stop the people from selling and they would be forced to stop because they won’t have a market.”
Meanwhile, Gobin Harbajan, the Prime Minister’s representative, in addressing the protesters, stated that he will brief the Prime Minister on the issues affecting the local producers.
He pledged to arrange meetings with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) since the illegal importation is causing unfair competition to local businesses and is a loss of revenue to Government.
The association plans to continue their protest until their complaints are addressed.