Guyana furthers appeal for US gov’t to lift catfish ban
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Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha

– ban imposed during APNU+AFC gov’t
– ‘Agri’ ministry awaits review of submitted documents

THE majority of the protocols that were required to remove the current ban on catfish to the United States of America (USA) are completed and have been submitted to the relevant government bodies, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said.

During an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday, Minister Mustapha said the Ministry, through its fisheries department, has updated and gazetted the Fishery Product Regulations of 2003 along with several other required protocols.

“We have completed the updating of the manual, we have gazetted it and that manual is law. We completed and submitted the self-reporting tool to the US food safety extension services through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“[And] we gazetted the fishery product regulations; those regulations, we had to update them to keep them in modern time and we did that,” he said.

Additionally, testing, inspections and vesting of the fishing sites in the country’s waters were done in collaboration with United States government authorities.

“We also did the testing that they want… we identified the lab that will have to test this water. What we have done also is inspection at the point of vesting, where these fishes are being caught in the ocean,” Mustapha added.

He noted that the department of fisheries has scheduled a meeting with its US counterpart for a review and further discussion on the necessary protocols needed to remove the ban.

Early Warning
Exporters of catfish were required by the US Food and Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) to provide documentation to verify that their inspection system was in keeping with US standards. This protocol came into effect in 2016.

Exporters here were given a transitional period to update their regulations and provide the relevant documentation. Failure to do this within the timeline, however, saw the United States imposing a ban on catfish imports from Guyana in September 2017.

“The United States administration would have already warned the previous government two years prior to the ban that they have to put their house in order or they will ban this product. They did not heed that authority’s warning, and, as a result of that we are now faced with the ban,” Mustapha said.

Since assuming office as the agriculture minister in 2020, Mustapha, along with a team of technical officers from the fisheries department, has worked to remove the ban.

“When I became minister of agriculture, the President instructed that I go and deal with this matter promptly and we started meetings immediately with the United States embassy,” he explained.

Exporters of catfish have been severely affected over the past few years as a result of the ban.

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