This country is ramping up its efforts to supply a large demand for lobsters sought by Jamaica-headquartered Rainforest Seafood which is constructing a multi-million dollar lobster processing plant at Calliaqua.
In his presentation of the 2021 budget to parliament on Monday, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves said government had been aggressively pursuing foreign direct investment in the fisheries sector, seeking out responsible partners willing to make transformative investments in the sector that will create jobs and generate markets for local fisher folk and the first among those direct foreign investors was Rainforest Seafood.
Construction of the multi-million dollar processing plant at Calliaqua was suspended last year after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March. However, work resumed months later.
The finance minister said that following the Covid-related delays, Rainforest Seafood expects to complete its $10 million processing plant in Calliaqua by the third quarter of this year.
“The company, by itself, is willing to purchase $20 million worth of seafood from a sector that has never generated $20 million of revenue in a single year.
“Indeed, Rainforest production capacity for lobster is four to five times the quantity of lobsters currently landed in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.
Gonsalves said that the agreement between Rainforest Seafood and the Government stipulates that Rainforest Seafood plant can process up to one million pound of seafood per year and that it will purchase $20 million worth of fish, conch and lobster annually from local fisher folk.
“Just think about those numbers for a moment,” the finance minister said.
“The plant will have the capacity to produce more than one-third of all the fish currently landed in this country,” Gonsalves also said.
Gonsalves said up to 300 artisanal lobster fishers will have the opportunity to make a good living just by supplying lobster to Rainforest Seafood.
“It is a potentially transformative investment. However, to take full advantage of the developmental potential of this and forthcoming investment in the seafood sector, our fisher folk must be able to rapidly ramp-up their capacity to satisfy new markets while improving both efficiency and quality standards,” Gonsalves said.
The finance minister said that having recognize the potential, his government is seeking to invest innovatively in the sector and the fisher folk. He said the government introduce a one-million-dollar fishing development project to expand the fishing fleet and provide capital to fishers willing to increase their capacity.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves provided a little more details on the matter on radio in recent months.
He said then that lobster fishermen in Calliaqua normally catch around 200 pounds of lobster per day in the open season. He, however, did not say how many fishermen are involved in lobster catching overall. “I just saw a report from Rainforest Seafood. Rainforest Seafood is going to need up to about 300 persons selling them lobsters. At least 150 pounds of lobster per week, each of them,” Dr Gonsalves said then.
The figures mentioned by Prime Minister Gonsalves then indicated that lobster fishers would have to come up with 45,000 pounds of lobster per week for Rainforest Seafoods in addition to that which they supply to the local hotels.
The plant will include installation of cold storage with the capacity for 250,000 pounds of seafood, processing rooms, and state-of-the-art equipment to allow at-source retail packaging, among other facilities. The company will be using the plant to process and export both fresh and frozen, sustainably harvested seafood products.
“We have to incentivize more people to go and to get involved in the lobster business,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said then.