Economic integration

SV&G PM welcomes Rainforest Caribbean’s investment in the region’s economic integration

The PRIME Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, hailed Rainforest Caribbean’s investment in a new seafood processing plant in that country as the manifestation of “Caricom in action”, as the he factory opened its doors six years after the first investment proposal for the Eastern Caribbean. island.

Rainforest Caribbean has built a state-of-the-art 25,000 square foot EC$10 million ($560 million, US$3.7 million) seafood processing facility in Calliaqua a small town 8 kilometers southeast of the capital Kingstown as it expands its footprint in the region. The facility is capable of processing live and frozen lobster, conch, sea cucumber and a wide range of finfish. It has been in service since January but was officially inaugurated on July 15, 2022.

“What we see here is Caricom in action,” Gonsalves told the audience at the facility’s inauguration last Friday, as he expressed his pride in being able to attract investment to his island of 110,000. inhabitants.

The ceremony was broadcast live on national television. The audience at the facility included several dignitaries in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including the country’s Governor General, Dame Susan Dougan, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves and Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar, as well as Rainforest Caribbean and Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture executives, including portfolio minister Pernel Charles Jr.

Caricom Investment

Gonsalves, 75 years old the region’s only current head of government to sign the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in 2001, which established the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) said Rainforest Caribbean’s investment is part of achieving one of the four essential pillars of the CSME: economic integration into Caricom.

“I really want to talk about how this fits into economic integration,” he told the audience in his usually charismatic style. “For economic integration to work, we need to ensure that the strengths and weaknesses of each of the respective units or countries, that those strengths and weaknesses are dissolved into the integrated whole, so that ultimately the everything is more than the sum of the individual parts.

“And that’s what we have here. We have fish, we have conch, we have lobster, we have sea cucumber; but we need the capital, we need the technology, we need the marketing, and we need the skill sets that we ourselves don’t yet have, to bring together, to have that as a dimension, an aspect of the fishing industry, so we can all do better than before.

He continued, “Fishermen selling here, they wouldn’t have had this avenue to sell, and what happens is the greater the demand, the more money they will get for their product. And, the people who work here in this factory, they would not have been employed otherwise. And the technology is here, the marketing is there and the skills that weren’t available here are brought in and we have something that we’re all going to benefit from.

His son, Camillo Gonsalves, 50, who is the country’s finance, economic planning and information technology minister and parliamentary representative for the Eastern St George constituency, in which the town of Calliaqua is located, was also thrilled with the investment and the 80 jobs the facility now provides to its constituents.

“Very often when we talk about investment, we talk about foreign direct investment and we use the word foreign to almost always mean something outside of the Caribbean. [We think] foreign direct investment means Miami or London or somewhere in South America.

“But what we learned in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is that the best foreign direct investment comes from the region. That’s why we have a hotel being built in Buccament with Jamaican owners, we have relationships we’re building with Jamaican financiers, and we have here in the heart of Calliaqua, Rainforest Seafoods back on the road in Jamaica. All foreign direct investment, but from the region.

“So we don’t have to explain Caribbean culture to anyone. We don’t have to explain to anybody what it takes to get something built, to work with contractors, to work with planning authorities, to understand the reality of Caribbean life, because the investment is foreign in Saint Vincent, but it is part of our Caribbean civilization,” he said.

No fuss

Benjamin Jardim, director of business development at Rainforest Caribbean, who was responsible for building the facility in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and is now moving on to new projects in the region, including another processing facility in Belize “to go further in the value-added treatment there,” said “It was a no-brainer for us to enter St Vincent.

In addition to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and its home country of Jamaica, Rainforest Caribbean has a presence in Belize where it operates a shrimp farm and processing facility, as well as warehouses in Barbados and St. LUCIA. The company is currently exploring other territories within Caricom for “a few other projects” and “new ideas” which Jardim admitted he does not want to get into at the moment.

However, regarding St Vincent’s investment, he said: ‘There have been holdbacks. When we were first looking [at the country for investing in 2016]there was no international airport, which would have limited our ability to market particular products, but between the time of our scouting in 2016 and our grand opening in 2022, the government of St. Vincent opened its new airport , Argyle International, which reinforced our investment. »

Jardim told the Jamaica Observer that the establishment has three processing rooms: one for fish, one for conch and the other for value-added ready-to-eat products.

“We also have a frozen packing room where we make a lot of our frozen added value, like fish steak and vacuum packing. We also have a live lobster facility with the capacity to store and export 10,000 pounds of live lobster per week. We also have our wharf which we plan to extend further in the near future to accommodate larger vessels with a deeper draft,” he added indicating that the total investment is over 10 million. EC dollars quoted at the ceremony.

Jardim added that Rainforest Caribbean will buy fish from Vincentian fishermen and not bring its own boats to the island. “We are processors first and foremost and would like to support the local fishing industry as best we can, so we will be buying 100% from local fishermen.”

According to the young Gonsalves, the Rainforest Caribbean facility aims to help his country double fish production every year.