- seeks gov’t assistance with markets; says pandemic affected demand
Member of the Guyana Association of Trawler Owners and Seafood Processors (GATOSP) met with Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha today to discuss developments in the sector.
During the meeting, head of the GATOSP, Ruben Charles disclosed that trawler operators have recorded almost 100% in their catch following almost three years of low catches.
Ravi Rafiwan, a member of the GATOSP said that he returned to sea some three months ago and has seen a significant increase in his catch.
“From January, I started to work my boats and I saw an increase from the past three years. It is not yet at the level where it used to be before the three years but it is close. I’m getting just about to ¾ of what I used to get before the catch drop and these levels have sustained for the past three months,” Mr. Rafiwan explained.
Minister Mustapha, in an invited comment, said that the reports from the GATOSP did not come as a surprise given the fact that in 2021, Guyana suffered one of the most devastating floods which saw a tremendous amount of fresh water in the fishing grounds which in turn affected the level of catches.
“We know for a fact that there was a period when fisherfolk were seeing low catches. This was a concern for the government and we consulted with the FAO to do a study to help determine the reason. The study sighted climate change as one of the main reasons fisherfolk were receiving low catches. Despite allegations that offshore explorations were affecting the industry; we are hearing it ‘from the horse’s mouth’ that catches are almost where they were. There was a clear agenda for spreading misinformation about the fishing industry because we are seeing a massive increase even though those other industries are still operating offshore,” the minister noted.
Although the industry has seen a positive turnaround over the last three months, Mr. Charles noted that due to issues that arose from supply issues during the pandemic, many companies are now having issues with markets. He explained that many of the local suppliers cannot market their products at sustainable prices in existing markets and are now looking to the government to assist with exploring new markets for their products.
Minister Mustapha explained that other sectors were also affected by the pandemic and that the government was working to secure new markets.
“We’ve seen, over the last three years due to the pandemic, demand declined and many markets were lost. Although the pandemic is not over, we are seeing increases in production. With these increases; and this is not only in the fisheries sector because we’ve seen it in other sectors; a lot of markets in several industries are being affected and we have to try and get back those markets and at competitive prices,”
Minister Mustapha has since committed to working with the Association through the ministry’s Fisheries Department to restore markets that were either lost or scaled down while also working to secure new markets for Guyana’s seafood. For this to be effective, the minister said that the process would have to be done in an organized way.
He also said that efforts are ongoing with officials from the United States of America’s Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to have the ban on catfish exports to the US lifted.
The Ministry, through the Fisheries Department, has updated and gazetted the Fishery Product Regulations of 2003 along with several other required protocols. Minister Mustapha said that the manual was gazetted and is now law.