Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Saboto Caesar is predicting that the fisheries sector will make a quantum leap in 2022.
And the government is providing extra support to the fisher folk to make sure that they can actively participate in the process.
“What we anticipate is that this support will assist them to increasing production and bring greater income and wealth to fisher folk,” Caesar said in an interview with SEARCHLIGHT.
“ We are going to embark on training so they can become more commercial in their operations.”
He anticipates that the operations of the still incomplete fisheries operations at Calliaqua, owned by Rainforest Seafoods will be among the contributors to this expansion.
The project was projected to begin operations by October this year but completion work was said to be affected by the volcanic eruptions and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new timeframe for its completion and opening has not yet been revealed, but the minister said it is likely to be late this year or early in 2022.
The facility is expected to process over half-a-million pounds of seafood annually which would increase as new markets are secured. It is also expected to double seafood exports out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG), said Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves on a recent ‘Let’s get down to Business’ programme hosted by Anthony Regisford on IKTV.
“Infrastructurally, we are having a new player on the block that is going to drive a lot of development in the fisheries sector. We are working to help fisherfolk on a number of fronts,” he said.
“First we are trying to help them with boats with the tools that they need, with technologies. We are trying to help them build their own capacity. We are going to give them supplies to build their own lobster pots, not to replace money that they would have already spent on lobster pots, but to build more.”
He also spoke about a new culture needing to be developed among those in the sector.
“We are trying hard on a cultural shift. The mindset of many fisher folk in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is that one heads out in the morning, catch enough fish to buy your gas to head out the next day, and catch the people as they head home at 4:00 o’clock.
“Elsewhere in the Caribbean fisher folk stay out for days. To stay out for days obviously you would need better equipment, freezing facilities, bigger and well equipped boats, and also a shift in culture to know that if you stay out than buying gas to go out every morning, the money would not be spent every day.”
Minister Caesar told SEARCHLIGHT in his interview on Wednesday morning that “a major component is the fisher folk getting bigger boats and spending more time at sea. They are going to experience a cultural shift. Some people are going to go voluntarily, some people are going to go kicking and screaming. Some will watch the volunteers go along with those who are kicking and screaming, but it is going to be the most exciting period for the fisheries sector in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He expects the benefits will be felt locally and abroad.
“A 20 million dollar demand in a market of 10 million dollars will have an impact on every stakeholder. It will have an impact on the fisher folk, on all exporters. It will have an impact on the man who is selling gas to the boats, the man who is selling live bait, and everybody including those with the faintest interest in the industry,” he projects.
“There will be a huge regional impact. The fisherman in Gros-Islet, or the fisherman in Soufriere, or Vieux-Fort who already know Rainforest is coming, these fishermen will land fish here to be transhipped. So there is a whole ecosystem that will be developed which is going to be very, very interesting”, Caesar added.
“ When you make a 20-million dollar market available at once it means that there will be people who have jobs in other sectors who are going to come to that sector.
“With the coming on stream of all these centres, inclusive of Rainforest, boats are going to leave from where they are and land their fish here to be transhipped after being processed. St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be seen as the fisheries centre of the southern Caribbean. That is what is going to happen.”
Rainforest Seafoods is expected to begin operations with a complement of 60 processors as well as administrative staff. Speaking of the possible impact on similar institutions in the fisheries sector, minister Caesar said, “it is not a situation where Rainforest Seafoods is coming on the scene and everybody is contracting no; everybody is expanding.”