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$10 million Rainforest Seafood project halted by COVID-19 outbreak

$10 million Rainforest Seafood project halted by COVID-19 outbreak
Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves


PROJECTS IN St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are already being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, with one of them being the EC$10 million Rainforest Seafood project in Calliaqua.

On Tuesday, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves disclosed that construction on the Rainforest Seafood processing plant has been halted for the time being because of the pandemic. The stoppage affects about 45 employees.

The minister said much of Jamaican seafood company’s income stream comes from two sources: one, the sale of seafood products to hotels, primarily hotels in Jamaica and the Caribbean region (Barbados and Lucia), and two, from the sale of live lobster in China and Hong Kong.

The Finance Minister noted that it is now impossible for Rainforest Seafoods to sell live lobster because there are no flights going from the United States (US) to China and parts of China are already locked down.

“So, they are having a hit on their income because they can’t sell live lobster and they’re getting a glut of lobster because they were buying lobster, but they couldn’t sell lobster,” Gonsalves explained.

He said the company has started to freeze the live lobster in the hope that they can sell it elsewhere.

“But the elsewhere, where they would like to sell it is to hotels. But the hotels are down to 20 per cent capacity, sometimes zero per cent capacity.

“So, there is less demand from the hotels, there is zero demand from China, and they have made a decision essentially that they have to ride out the storm, financially”, Gonsalves told media people.

He said it is not in their interest to continue construction at this time while he also noted that the

other element that affects them is that components of the prefabricated building come from China and are enroute from China.

The assembly of the building has to be supervised by two Chinese workers, otherwise the building will not receive the warranty that the manufacturer offers.

“So they have a money crunch because nobody is buying seafood and fish in hotels and they can’t ship the lobster to their main market in China and the building that is coming has to be supervised by two Chinese engineers who can’t come in to St Vincent and the Grenadines because they will be coming directly from China and they’d have to be quarantined for 14 days,” Gonsalves stated.

The finance minister however stressed that the project is not being permanently halted but at this time, Rainforest Seafoods is experiencing a cash crunch.

“So while the building, the pillars, the columns are on the sea in containers currently coming from China, it is likely that they will have to sit on the wharf for a little while until Rainforest is able again to resume construction when there is an uptick in tourism activity in their main markets, and a return to flights,” Gonsalves said.

He added, “so already, again, one case in St Vincent, but already you’re seeing the knock-on effects of COVID in our environment. We had hoped to make a few very, very exciting announcements in the hospitality space in the coming weeks, but also those entities with which we are negotiating, have said that they’re experiencing difficulties of their own and they would also like to press pause on some of the activities that they would like to engage with the government and with the people of St Vincent,” the finance minister said.