Smuggling poses challenges to business and fight against COVID-19

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Farmers in the East Berbice, Corentyne Region are struggling with the contraband trade from Suriname, saying it not only affects local businesses but could hamper the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The East Berbice Aquaculture Association has been lobbying the Government for years to control smuggling but have been unsuccessful.

Secretary of the Association, Suedat Persaud, in a telephone interview with the News Room accused authorities such as the Guyana Revenue Authority, Ministry of Public Health and the Fisheries sector of accepting bribes from the smugglers.

“…the authorities GRA, Public Health and Fisheries all collaborated and facilitated this illegal business over the years.

“They take bribe money,” Mr Persaud said.

The smuggling is now posing a threat to residents in Region Six and according to Mr Persaud, the residents are fearful of an outbreak of COVID-19 with the illegal border crossing.

“Suriname has about 500 cases of COVID-19 now, so if anybody infected and they come across it will be very detrimental for the people in Berbice here,” Mr Persaud said.

Mr Persaud explained that shrimps, fish, chicken and other goods are being smuggled into Guyana and sold for a lower price in bulk, competing with local businesses.

“We can’t compete with them, they have it plentiful and selling it cheap and our cost of production is very high so we can’t compete with them,” Mr Persaud stated.

He said illegal ports of entry have been identified in No. 73, 52 and 74 Villages and in Port Mourant and Albion.

The Association is pleading with the authorities to work together and prevent the cross border smuggling particularly as the country battles COVID-19.

Farmers in the region are also faced with climate change challenges and underdevelopment. During the rainy season farmers are unable to produce for months.

“We tried to get grants and help, but to no avail as yet.

It was also noted that some residents are not adhering to the COVID-19 measures in place to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

New Amsterdam, Region Six recorded its first COVID-19 case and the country’s 3rd COVID-19 related death on April 1, 2020. Osa Collins, a 78-year-old resident of New Amsterdam died at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. Ms Collins had recently travelled from the United States and was considered an imported COVID-19 case.

The authorities in Region Nine are also faced with illegal border crossing from neighbouring Brazil. Brazil is among the top countries with the most cases and is the epicentre of the outbreak in Latin America.

Three persons were recently arrested in Lethem for attempting to smuggle nine Brazilian nationals into Guyana via Sand Pit, an illegal crossing at the Takutu River near the Guyana/Brazil border.

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