Local crab catchers are feeling the pinch of poor sales after the government issued a ban on the importation of processed crab meat and live crabs from Venezuela.
Since the ban, the crab catchers from Woodland, Oropouche, Moruga, and Embaccadere complained that their sales had dried up.
Vinod Ramsawak, who sold crabs from Mayaro said after waiting for six hours in the heat, all he sold was $100.
“Things are tough. I want to sell these crabs so I can make up money to buy my children’s school books and uniforms. I have two sons who are still in school and I have bills,” Ramsawak said.
He added that his crabs came from Ortoire, Mayaro and were not imported from Venezuela but even after pleading with potential customers, no sales were forthcoming.
Asked to differentiate between local crabs and Venezuelan crabs, Ramsawak said both crabs look the same. However, he said the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries must do a detailed investigation on the crabs before issuing a ban.
Another vendor Gobin Maharaj who sold crabs on Gulf View Link Road said his crabs came from Moruga.
“We go down there to catch them but since I came out at 7 am, I have not sold a single bunch,” Maharaj complained.
As news of the ban spread, a group of crab catchers from Otaheite held a meeting with the president of the Crabcatchers and Oysters Association Robert Nandlal. In an interview, Nandlal commended the government on banning Venezuelan crabs but said some protection must be given to local crab catchers.
“If there are a bacteria we do not want those crabs contaminating ours. We want our local crab catchers to get a fair dollar when the day comes,” Nandlal said, adding that local crabs sell for $100 per bunch.
A bunch comprises of six to eight crabs depending on the size. Venezuelan crabs are sold for $20 for a bunch of six.
Nandlal said local crab catchers could not compete with the Venezuelan crab traders. However, he said over 50 crab catchers who earn their livelihood by catching crabs in the Oropouche swamp, are barely making a living since the ban was instituted.
Adesh Kariah of South Oropouche said he needed employment.
“If they are taking away our livelihood by banning Venezuelan crabs which is making us suffer, they should offer us some compensation,” Kariah said. He added that during the recent oil spill and the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension, many crab catchers were affected but were never compensated.
Arnold Buxo of Oropouche also said he got no crab sales yesterday because of the ban.
Contacted yesterday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said people must be cautious about whom they buy their crabs from.
Saying the US Food and Drug Administration had found a bacteria in fresh crab meat from Venezuela, which causes cholera, Rambharat said the crab meat referred to by the FDA is processed and packaged and the Ministry of Trade had stopped issuing licenses for the importation of the product.
Noting the ongoing illicit trade between Venezuela and T&T in the sale of live crabs, Rambharat said consumers must be mindful of the health risks.
Last week, the FDA reported that 12 people in the US had been sickened by the bacteria, Vibrio parahaemolyticus.