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An artist's impression of the finished Rainforest Seafoods facility in Calliaqua, St Vincent and the Grenadines (Photo contributed)

Construction on Rainforest Seafoods St Vincent pushes on despite COVID-19

An artist's impression of the finished Rainforest Seafoods facility in Calliaqua, St Vincent and the Grenadines (Photo contributed)

Despite the “extraordinary challenges” brought on by the coronavirus crisis, regional seafood exporter Rainforest Seafoods is moving with urgency to complete the construction of its 30,000-sq-ft processing plant in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) within budget.

The company, headquartered in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in April last year announced the construction of the facility in Calliaqua over an 18-month period at a cost of EC$10 million. Plans for the plant at the time included the installation of cold storage with the capacity for 250,000 pounds of seafood, blast freezers, processing rooms, and state-of-the-art equipment to allow at-source retail packaging.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves (left) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rainforest Seafoods Brian Jardim. (Photo Searchlight)

In fact, Rainforest Seafoods had scheduled to host an official ground-breaking for the multimillion-dollar project but had to shelve plans due to the COVID-19 reaching Caribbean shores. The company is, nonetheless, adamant that construction continues with the aim of opening the facility during this calendar year.

“It is difficult to put a definitive timeline on the project given the extraordinary challenges we face due to COVID-19, but we are fully committed to the project and fully committed in our mission to provide the fisherfolk of SVG a consistent and reliable market for their products. We have restarted work and will proceed as fast as the economic environment will allow,” Roger Lyn, director of marketing and corporate affairs, told Caribbean Business Report in response to queries.

Roger Lyn, director of marketing and corporate affairs, Rainforest Seafoods
(Photo contributed)

An eye on exports

“Rainforest Seafoods will work diligently to create a reliable market for the fishermen and will work closely with the Government of St Vincent to manage their stocks for generations of fishermen to come.”

— Roger Lyn, director of marketing and corporate affairs, Rainforest Seafoods

Upon completing the construction of the plant, Rainforest Seafoods will use it to process and export both fresh and frozen, sustainably harvested seafood products. The company has also set its sights on launching new products with seafood sourced from local fisherfolk, including lobster, conch, sea cucumber, and a wide range of finfish.

“St Vincent and the Grenadines has a robust food production platform, which will bolster internal food supply systems should food import availability become compromised,” the country’s minister of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, rural transformation, industry and labour, Saboto Caesar, told News784 in an interview in March.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour Saboto Caesar (Photo: Caribbean National Weekly)

According to a press release from Rainforest Seafoods, the plant’s nearness to the newly constructed Argyle International Airport will work in favour of the company’s export efforts.

A win-win

“Rainforest Seafoods will work diligently to create a reliable market for the fishermen and will work closely with the Government of St Vincent to manage their stocks for generations of fishermen to come. The construction of the new airport also opened up the opportunity to export live and fresh products,” Lyn pointed out.

The marketing director anticipates that Rainforest Seafoods can reap from its investment in the country because of its sustainably managed fisheries and progressive regulations that protect both the small animals and the larger animals that are most responsible for reproduction.

An artist’s rendition of the Rainforest Seafoods in Calliaqua, St Vincent and the Grenadines
(Photo contributed)

“We were also very impressed with the SVG fisherfolk and the effort they make to handle their product well. SVG fisherfolk land their product alive, which not only ensures that quality is fantastic but also facilitates for a fulsome inspection of the animal to ensure it meets all regulatory standards before it is purchased,” he added.

Rainforest Seafoods also has operations in Belize and St Lucia.