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New fish market opens with better facilities for fisherfolk

New fish market opens with better facilities for fisherfolk

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by Sheron Garraway

“Rule Gonsalves! Rule!” was the cheer sounded by some party supporters who turned out to witness the re-opening of the Kingstown Fish Market as Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves stood up to address the gathering.

And as the party supporters, decked in red clothes waved red flags while singing praises for their leader, Dr. Gonsalves outlined that his team came into governance at a time when numerous blacklists had been placed upon and were pending over this country because of what he said were the mistakes made by the previous administration.{{more}}

He said that in March 2001, this country was under at least five blacklists, and one of them was a ban from the European Union following a visit from representatives from the Food and Veterinary Office in Dublin, which prohibited this country from exporting fish. Dr. Gonsalves pointed out that the absence of laboratories for microbiological and chemical analysis at international standards, the correct reporting of procedures for inspections and the lack of issued health certificates for those selling fish were among the reasons for this country being blacklisted by the European Union. He stressed that this was a severe blow to the fishing industry as fisher folk were unable to export fish to that lucrative European Market.

The Prime Minister noted that after a request by this country, Japan gave assistance under their grant aid scheme. He noted that it led to a basic design study on the project and entrusted to Japan International Cooperation (JICA) the permission to select CRC Overseas Co-operation Inc. now (ICONS) International Cooperative In. to carry out the study.

Dr. Gonsalves announced that in 2003, from February to March, the basic designs study was carried out while in May 2003 the basic draft report was finalised, prepared and presented to the Government of Japan. This was appraised and approved by the Japanese Cabinet in the sum of Yen 755,000,000 or EC$16.9 million. (Government contributed $650 000 giving a total of $17.3 million to the fishing industry in St.Vincent and the Grenadines)

He noted that the construction began on February 1, 2004 and was completed on the February 28, 2005. The building was handed over on March 7, 2005. Dr. Gonsalves praised the construction team overseeing the project for completing the project on time and in a satisfactory manner.

Dr. Gonsalves also outlined the purpose for the re-modeling of the market, as a place to guarantee a high quality and safe fresh fish to consumers and to improve hygienic conditions during production and distribution of fish. He also noted that rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes that made business not only unsanitary but uncomfortable for vendors and consumers will no longer dwell in the new facility.

The Prime Minister noted that old machines; chill and storage equipment, were removed and replaced with modern energy efficient, water cooled machines.

Dr. Gonsalves noted that lockers and stalls were removed, vending stalls were replaced with larger units with cover display cases, five booths installed to facilitate the cleaning of fish and a dry fish area to accommodate the sale of black fish crisp and other dry fish products. He said that all plumbing and electrical installations were repaired and the floor is now properly drained with easily cleaned surfaces to minimize bacterial growth and contamination of fish products.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves rebuked persons who criticized the destruction of the parking lot to construct the Quality Control Building. He noted that this section houses the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Building which has preparation, processing, and packing zones which includes conveyer belts so that products can be transferred without contamination. He said that they had to use the parking space because if another storey were to go unto the already two storey building that would mean a disaster waiting to happen. He indicated that the engineers determind that the foundation was unstable to house another storey.

On the point of construction, the Prime Minister said that the meat market will also be re-constructed as well as the entire Little Tokyo Bus Terminal. He however injected that this would be made possible if his administration was given a second term to govern this country.

Dr. Gonsalves also made mention of the National Fisheries Marketing Limited which was established as a statutory body to look over and focus on the marketing of the fish and fish products. He noted that this is crucial to develop a viable commercial operation and to create investment opportunities for the private sector.

The Prime Minister also noted that during the construction of the market, administrative and legislative procedures governing the export of fish and fish products were revised to meet international fish quality regulations. He said that the documented procedures have been submitted to the European Union Food and Veterinary Office and a team from that body will soon conduct inspection on the new fish market.

He also hoped that the Guadeloupe and Martinique market for fish will soon be re-opened so that fisherfolk could once again make more money.

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