Minister of State, Joseph Harmon says that the Ministry of Agriculture is working closely with the authorities in the United States to reverse the ban imposed on the export of Catfish to the US market.
The Government spokesman told a post-cabinet media briefing yesterday that Cabinet was briefed on the issue on March 27, by Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder where he assured that the Ministry is working to have the matter resolved as soon as possible.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is actively engaged with the US authorities to have the issue resolved in the shortest possible time,” Harmon said.
The Minister of State further explained that the ban is seeking to address the issue of farm-reared catfish, hence, he believes the engagement will lead to positive outcomes.
Mr Harmon, however, noted that certain administrative changes, both in the United States and Guyana led to Guyana’s failure in meeting the requirements for the export of Catfish to the US market.
On February 3, 2018, the US Government imposed a temporary ban on fish exports from Guyana after the country failed to comply with requirements. Subsequently, the U.S. Government said it informed Guyana of changes to its food safety regulations regarding fish and shrimp since November 2015 and even extended the deadline for compliance.
According to the State Minister, during the two years from when the notice was given, changes of staff at the Ministry of Public Health and constant change of the department responsible for the issue in the United States led to Guyana being unable to meet the deadline for becoming compliant with the requirements.
“There were changes occurring in the US administration itself so that when you’re dealing with one department, by time you got to a certain comfort level with that, it was another department and here in Guyana itself, there officials who were dealing with it, some of them have actually changed over the last two or three years,” Harmon told reporters.
He said that the Ministry of Public Health was initially responsible for meeting the requirements before it was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The exportation of smoked and salted catfish or Siluriformes (catfish, gillbacker, cuirass, cuma cuma, hassar, kukwarri) species of fish to the USA has been restricted until the necessary requirements, as outlined by the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), are met.
The US Embassy said the U.S. Government takes very seriously the protection of the world’s waterways and marine life and is constantly its regulations and processes to ensure that waterways and marine life are protected.