Ban on catfish exports: Govt’s “incompetence” on full display – Opposition leader

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“Failure, I believe, as we have seen with evidence of incompetence, continues to be the defining characteristic of the current Administration.”

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

These were the words of Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo as he criticized the APNU/AFC Administration for not doing enough to address the concerns of the fishing industry with the recent ban that was imposed on exports of all catfish species to the United States of America.

Jagdeo grounded his comments in the recent pronouncements by the local US Embassy that the Government was notified in November of 2015 in advance of changes to the regulations.

“We notified the Government of Guyana of these pending changes in November of 2015, more than 18 months before they were to go into effect. We even gave Guyana an extension until February 3, 2018 to comply with the new regulations,” the Embassy said in an issued statement on Wednesday.

According to the Jagdeo, the arguments therefore advanced from the Government quarters were disingenuous since they had ample time to effect the changes necessary to prevent the ban from going into effect.

Veterinary Public Health Unit Director, Dr Ozaye Dodson has said the imposition from the US export market was just a temporary technical barrier to trade.

He posited that the country fell short of the US standards in three areas: firstly, on the issue of the presence of inspectors; secondly, there was insufficient documentation detailing verification of each step in the sanitation and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) process and thirdly, there was insufficient documentation specifying how the industry manages adulterated catfish products.

Jagdeo said he is “of the firm view that the Coalition Government is fully responsible for the plight of local fishermen, given that they were notified of the USA’s pending changes to export regulations since November 2015. The Coalition Government, despite having received notice of these changes, failed to communicate effectively with the stakeholders of the fisheries sector, many of whom have invested heavily in this area.”

“To make matters worse, the Coalition Government received an extension until February 3, 2018, to bring Guyana into compliance with the new export regulations and failed again” the Opposition leader said. “I have noted the offer by the USA to provide technical assistance to the Government of Guyana to help Guyana fishermen and women to comply with the new export regulations.”

As such, he is calling on the incumbent Administration to immediately take measures to support compliance with the new regulations and also take measures to support the local fisheries sector in the meantime.

“The fisheries sector cannot be allowed to suffer irreparable losses, as we have seen in other productive sectors, since the APNU+AFC Coalition Government took office” said Jagdeo.

Guyana was among several countries banned recently from the US catfish export sector.

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