Fisherfolk across Barbados are anxiously anticipating a meeting with Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey, for whom they say they have lots of questios.
Among the issues high on the agenda for the fish vendors and boat owners is the potential impact of the impending fuel levy on fish prices, and long awaited repairs to some of the markets, including the boatlift and jetty at the Berinda Cox Fish Market in Oistins, Christ Church.
The new tax, which takes effect on July 1, replaces the road tax and is expected to raise $80 million annually for Government’s coffers. It is to be levied at a rate of 40 cents per litre of petrol and diesel and five cents per litre of kerosene.
One boat owner at the Berinda Cox Fish Market told Barbados TODAY he wants Government to clarify its position on the fuel tax as it relates to the fishing community.
“I got a boat and I don’t pay road tax, so I want to know if the money going on pon my boat too,” the boat owner, who requested anonymity, said.
He said unless they were offered concessions, the tax would severely affect small boat owners.
“All of them little boats can’t survive, so I wonder if we would still get commercial diesel and would not have to pay that 40 cents.”
Fellow boat owner Kim Harris, who is also a vendor, said her concern was about the broken lift and dilapidated jetty at the market, especially in the hurricane season.
“I would like that he [Humphrey] to address the slip away by the market so that we can get a crane, so that the boats can be hauled up instead of us having to pay $3,000 to $4,000 to haul the boats,” Harris said, adding that she also looked forward to hearing the new minister’s plans for the market and the industry.
Over at Six Men’s in St Peter, a fish vendor who gave his name only as Reudon, said he was hoping for a satisfactory result in order to avoid a possible increase of the fish prices.
“The fellas would have to get a meeting with the minister to see if they can get that problem solved,” he said.
However, 83-year-old fish vendor Lucil Clarke was not at all worried about the pending tax, nor did she believe it would lead to a significant rise in prices.
“I don’t think that it will affect the cost of fish. People have to wait and see what is going on. The fish might go up or the fish may go down, it all depends on how high the diesel goes,” she said, adding that “people always buy fish once the fish is plentiful”.
Clarke also complained about what she said was neglect of the market by the previous Freundel Stuart-led administration, adding that she was hopeful that Humphrey would deliver on the promised repairs.
“The last Government took all the money and you don’t know what they do with it. The fish market went to ruin and now we got to try to build it back up,” Clarke said.