“There’s no conclusion as yet” – Agri Minister says on US catfish ban

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It has been over one year since the United States imposed a ban on the exportation of catfish from Guyana. To date, the Agriculture Ministry has fostered discussions, but there has been no definite conclusion on when the sanction would be lifted.

Speaking with INews, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder recently posited that discussions with his US counterpart would continue in the future.

“We’re still in talks with the Americans. There’s no conclusion as yet … We will have discussions later and then we’ll get closer,” Holder said.

Last February, he had pointed towards the bureaucratic movement between the Fisheries Department of the Agriculture Ministry and the Government Analyst-Food and Drug Department of the Public Health Ministry as one of the main challenges against compliance with the US-imposed catfish ban, which was enforced to achieve standardisation of seafood entering the country.

Holder had stated that while work has been done to lift the ban, it was an international issue which had to be dealt with in a holistic manner. At that time, “nothing new” had emerged from discussions, and they were working towards an arrangement to adhere to the standards set out by the United States of America.

“There is nothing new on it. It’s the question of coming to an arrangement with the US concerning our adherence to their rule or how we can best adhere to it. We just can’t lift the ban, because it is worldwide and not just against Guyana,” the Minister said.

He sought to mention that if the Food Safety Authority – which was brought into force by the Food Safety Bill – was established, the process would have been faster than having two Ministries involved.

The Food Safety Bill was presented to the National Assembly in 2016, providing for a Food Safety Authority, which would spearhead all aspects of food production, including preparation and transportation for exportation.

Last December, Holder was questioned by Opposition officials as to what Government has been initiating to lift the ban after some G$14.7 million was set aside for the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism as part of Guyana’s contribution to international organisations.

Then Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira questioned whether Guyana could get help from this very organisation, to which Holder replied in the affirmative. She also enquired whether legislation was being drafted to assist Guyana with gaining compliance.