The Guyana Metal Recyclers Association (GMRA) is appealing to the Government to remove the ban on scrap metal exportation which was imposed since September 30, 2020.
On Wednesday, Secretary of the GMRA, Stephen Bourne, called on President Dr Irfaan Ali to intervene, since thousands of Guyanese who depend on the trade are suffering.
GMRA said that shortly after the ban, the association, which has 23 members, met with Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond, who assured them that the trade would be reopened no later than December 15, 2020.
According to GMRA, a follow-up meeting was held on January 12, 2021, this time between Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn, Minister Walrond, Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) James Singh, a representative from the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), and executives of the GMRA.
At that meeting, the members said, they were asked to provide documentation such as their business registration, address of scrap metal yards, and their contact information. The association is saying that all of the requested information was provided by its members.
However, during the meeting, GMRA said, no date was given for the reopening of the lucrative trade, but they were informed that phased reopening is likely after a new and improved scanner is installed.
The association noted that the ban continues ever since authorities in Belgium unearthed 11.5 tons of cocaine among scrap metal back in November 2020. The drugs were found in containers that originated from Guyana.
Since that major drug bust, CANU has issued a wanted bulletin for Marlon Primo of Atlantic Ville, East Coast Demerara, the owner of MA Trading which shipped the containers to the consignee, Lotraco Recycling BV, in the Netherlands. He is still on the run.
In an interview with this publication, Bourne said the scrap metal trade is being overlooked, since the other traders are getting to export without problems. According to Bourne, the scrap metal trade is not the only trade that has had cocaine busts in recent times. In this regard, he believes the GMRA is being treated unfairly.
GMRA’s Treasurer, Shalini Dias, said that the association was informed that its closure was to facilitate an audit. She was, however, unable to give an update on the current situation since she was informed that such information was not made available to the association.
But this is not the first time Government has placed a ban on the scrap metal trade.
According to GMRA, under the previous APNU/AFC Government, scrap metal trading was closed for two years. Many of the GMRA members have complained that, apart from having families to maintain, they are burdened with loans and mortgages, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made their situation worse.
GMRA says it is a national association that represents an industry that is dedicated to the efficient removal of recyclable materials; namely, ferrous and non-ferrous metals. According to the association, the scrap metal industry creates jobs for both skilled and unskilled workers, which add up to approximately 1200 persons.