GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- The Ministry of Agriculture is seeking to develop the necessary framework for Guyana to tap into the growing trade in aquaculture products that would entail putting the regulations in place to meet the export standards, and getting the farmers on-board.
Minister of Agriculture Dr Leslie Ramsammy met with farmers involved in aqua-farming at the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) to listen to recommendations for moving forward the industry and developing instead a “high yielding aquaculture industry in Guyana that can enter the Caribbean, North America and European market”.
“Clearly we have the potential for a very successful fishing industry, we have the potential for fishing to become more significant in the agriculture production of our country, and in contributing to overall development and the overall GDP of Guyana, but for one reason or another our development has not been as rapid as we would have preferred,” he said.
Ramsammy explained that the leading producers of aquaculture are now using a lot of their own products internally, but if production is increased Guyana can seek to get a foot hold in the export market.
He further explained though that in seeking to enter these markets Guyana must first meet the non-tariff and sanitary standards for export trade to these countries.
“The US imports some $1billion in aquaculture products, and Central America is now getting much attention from the US and that includes Belize, but whilst it is part of the supply chain for the US, Belize has only approximately eight acres of aquaculture pond producing tilapias yet Belize’s export is many times that of any other Caribbean country.”
One of the reasons is that Belize has developed all of the sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards that are necessary for exports into the US and into Europe which Guyana will have to match, he said.
In working to ensuring Guyana adheres to these international guidelines for export of aquaculture products, the Ministry of Agriculture is soon to put a number of regulatory measures in place, Ramsammy said.
“We are about to approve the national policy for inland fishing and aquaculture and at present we are finalising the fishery product regulation; the marine fishing regulation and the aquaculture regulation,” he said.
“Unless we develop and produce our product, within this regulatory framework, we will not have an export market period, and indeed if new food regulation of the US, which is also being mimicked in Canada, and Europe will see further non-tariff barrier to our trade. We can complain that they are unfair, or we can do the only thing we can which is to meet those standards, because I can guarantee you, we can complain till we turn blue, it will not change the regulation in North America and Europe,” he added.
Investigations have revealed that Guyana’s inability to meet these sanitary and phyto-sanitary conditions have been hindering trade even within the region (to countries like Trinidad and Tobago), which have a huge import bill for aquaculture products, the Minister stated.
“When I investigated why Trinidad would import from China, one of the reasons cited is that Guyana does not meet the sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards that are necessary for entry of food products into Trinidad. Barbados says it is the same, Jamaica says it is the same, for that reason I am about to send a team to Trinidad to look at this sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, and also to work with you so that we know what these standards are and we meet these standards.”
Trinidad and Tobago imports about US$50 million of fish products including tilapia, and the Caribbean as a whole imports more than 220 million tonnes of fish product from outside of the region at a value of close to US$300 million annually.
“This constitutes a rich market for us in Guyana, but we will have to work together to ensure that we can take advantage of the market that exists in the Caribbean,” he said.
During the meeting, the farmers cited the lack of availability of proper nutritious local fish food, short supply USAID fish food, the lack of land for expansion, access to loan and financing and not enough government support among issues that must be addressed and/or are to be put in place in moving the industry to the point of increased production for export. One farmer also suggested setting up an aquaculture park.
In response, Ramsammy recognised the need for local feed of quality and said that ministry is seeking to address this through research and development of an indigenous fish food. The farmers were also informed that an investor is seeking to work with the ministry on the concept of an aquaculture park and that it will seek to build this park around the Satyadeow Sawh Research Centre.
The issue of loans remains a problem and whilst government has and will continue to give support to the farmers financially or through research or the provision of equipment, the onus is on the farmers to also seek to invest in the development of their aquaculture enterprise. Government can only partner with the farmers, they were reminded.
During the meeting the decision was taken that a15-man National Oversight Committee be established to accelerate the expansion of the industry, with the goal of ensuring Guyana becomes a major aquaculture exporter. The committee which will be established by the end of April will comprise farmers that were in attendance at today’s meeting.