St Vincent and the Grenadines working to reopen EU market as new seafood plants open
The government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) – a southern Caribbean nation – is working to reopen trade to the European Union.
The island nation was initially banned from trade with the E.U. 20 years ago, and was given another “red card” in 2017 for failing to take adequate steps to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU). The red card in 2017 was issued due to what the European Commission said at the time was a lack of control of vessels flying the country’s flag by its authorities.
“These vessels operate all over the Atlantic and offload their catches in Trinidad and Tobago (which has already been warned in order to improve control over activities in its ports),” the E.C. said in 2017. “Effectively, these vessels elude any control over their activities. This raises the concern that they are involved in illegal practices.”
Now, SVG Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labor Saboto Ceasar said the nation is committed to ratifying and meeting the requirements of the Port State Measures Agreement (PMSA) and that the nation plans a renewed focus on combatting IUU, discouraging vessels from engaging in IUU, and using prohibited ports.
“We have hired international legal advisors, and very soon we are going to see the removal of the red card so we can export again to the European Union,” Ceasar said.
The minister’s comments came during the grand opening of a new seafood processing plant built by Jamaica-based Rainforest Seafood. The new plant, located in the town of Calliaqua, will meet food safety standards for the United States Food and Drug Administration and the E.U., according to Rainforest Seafoods CEO Brian Jardim.
Rainforest supplies Caribbean fish and seafood to international customers, and according to Jardim the company was directly impacted by the E.U. ban on imports from SVG, making a resumption of trade a priority for the company.
“This will open up another world of possibilities and lucrative untapped markets that we currently shop to from other plants in the Caribbean. So that is just one more opportunity for growth we see out of this facility,” Jardim said.
Opening trade back up is easier said than done, however, Ceasar said.
“Political will alone and the discussions at cabinet alone cannot bring dreams to reality. The legislative framework had to be put in place,” he said. “And before the end of this year, we are going to see through the Parliament of our country a modern Fisheries Act. We continue to work to ensure that we follow international standards.”
On 25 July, the National Assembly held a meeting to discuss the bans, prompted by an Order Paper issued by Opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
“Over two decades ago, SVG exporters were banned from exporting seafood to E.U. markets, principally in Martinique, pending certain improvements in the handling of the seafood catch in our facilities,” the Order Paper states. The Government of SVG initiated steps to improve the fish handling conditions in our facilities. Yet, SVG fish exporters are still not able to export to E.U. Markets.”
Friday urged the government to figure out and correct the issues, and asked it to state “why, in over 20 years, the government has not been able to satisfy the conditions to restart the export of seafood to E.U. markets, and whether the government has abandoned efforts to re-enter that market”.
Meanwhile Ceasar said SVG is working on “the largest fleet expansion program” the country has ever seen.
“Over the next few weeks, we are going to start, and this is going to be rolled out over the next few years,” he said. And over 90 fishers in St Vincent and Grenadines have already applied and will be approved very soon to put fish not only in local dishes, but in dishes across the world.”
Photo courtesy of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Agency for Public Information