The Government will be seeking to collaborate with seafood distributor, Rainforest Seafoods, to assist with improving the output and consumption of products within the local aquaculture industry.
This was stated by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, during a tour of the seafood distributor’s new facilities at 67 Slipe Road in Kingston, on Tuesday June 12.
He said the collaboration will assist in providing available markets for the farmers as well as assist in reducing the country’s high food import bill, which is currently in excess of $930 million per year.
Mr. Clarke noted that the decision to visit the facility follows meetings with members of the aquaculture industry.
“They (fish farmers) suggested that we should have a formal arrangement with Rainforest to see how the company and themselves can work hand in hand, and any other company that’s in that kind of importation business. What we want to do is to see how we can formalise an arrangement with them (Rainforest) to see how they can help us to grow the industry,” the Minister said.
He noted that farmers in the industry have suffered tremendously over the years, as their production levels have fallen by about 60 per cent, as they have been competing with the importation of various products.
Mr. Clarke informed that despite investments which farmers have made in the sector, they have been gradually getting out of the business, as the importation of fish has risen significantly over the years.
The Minister informed that the exportation of Tilapia in previous years was done substantially to Europe. “We had reasonable volume…we were doing (about) 400 tonnes per annum and now we are not in that business and we see fish coming in from all over the place,” he said.
For his part, Chief Executive Officer of Rainforest Seafoods, Brian Jardim, said it is the intention of the company to increase purchases considerably within the local sector.
He noted that the new facility, upon completion, will be able to store six million pounds of frozen products, and handle fresh products for the local market and for export.
Mr. Jardim informed that it is expected to be completed in August of this year, adding that in excess of US$10 million has been invested in the facility.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter