Guyana certified as fish exporter to EU By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
January 24, 2004

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GUYANA has now been approved as an exporter of seafood to the lucrative European Union (EU) market following the official receipt of certification from the European Commission (EC).

Head of the European Commission (EC) in Guyana, Per Eklund, yesterday handed over the official certificate to Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock and acting Minister of Agriculture, Satyadeow Sawh, at a reception in honour of the occasion at Le Meridien Pegasus.

Sawh described the occasion as an historic one with Guyana being the winner, noting that certification was achieved as a result of all stakeholders working in partnership. "Working together is always the preferred route," he added.

The minister noted the significant impact the fisheries sector is making on the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as on the lives of the ordinary people throughout the country.

He said access to the EU market has "opened the door wider" for the local fishing industry, but reminded operators of the need for sustainable exploitation of oceanic resources, and the need to maintain international standards of quality.

He expressed the view that the local fishing industry would in the near future move rapidly in the direction of value added fishery products, adding that he envisages that Guyana eventually would export canned fish to Europe.

He also reiterated Government's commitment towards diversification of the agriculture industry and even within the fishing industry, pointing out the establishment of a local aquaculture industry, which presently has over 6,000 acres under fish cultivation.

Eklund disclosed that the EU market for seafood is a massive one with Europeans consuming $26B euros' worth annually. $22.4B of that amount is imported.

He added that indications are that there will be increased consumption of seafood during this year with increase of the EU population moving from 375 million to 480 million during this year.

Alluding to the great potential of Guyana, Eklund urged that it should be turned into action to bring prosperity and economic development for Guyana.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Bhowan Balkarran recalled that the accomplishment of certification was a as a result of hard work and the mechanism which started since 1999 with the assistance of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), faced many challenges to meet the very stringent standards of the EU.

He informed the gathering that the legislation governing the quality control system and is very comprehensive and is encapsulated in a 250 page manual.

He further stated that the Veterinary Public Health Unit of the Ministry of Health in enforcing the quality control system.

Local fish processing plants had to undergo modifications to become EU compliant, Balkarran said, disclosing that already one company, Noble House Seafoods, has been approved as EU compliant.

President of the Guyana Trawler Association, Lloyd Piggot, said the certification could not have at a more opportune time in the history of the local fishing industry.

He acknowledged that certification has now created the ability of the local fishing industry to export its products to the EU market, however, he lamented that the higher fuel and production costs, uncertain markets and increased competition are negatively impacting on the local fishing industry.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Noble House Seafoods, Leslie Romalho concurred with his colleague on the latter issue and appealed to the Government to implement measures to counter the difficulties being faced.

The CEO recollected that his company began building a new processing facility in 1997 in accordance with EU standards and certification now is "a dream come true."

He also observed that the fishing industry is at a critical stage, but assured that operators have demonstrated a responsible attitude by abiding with the closed season for trawler fishing in the interest of sustainability.

Romalho told the Chronicle that his company expects to begin exports of peeled and cooked shrimp to the EU by the middle of next month.