New concessions approved for conch exporters
Conch exporters have now been granted permission to pay the levy on conch exports in instalments.
The concession comes amid complaints from exporters that the levy imposed additional financial burden on them, in terms of their cost of doing business and maintaining their European Union accreditation, according to Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda.
"This has resulted in a struggle for the exporters in growing market share in the extremely competitive European Union conch market. The exporters have expressed a continued willingness to pay the requisite levies, but they seek deferment of the payment in relation to the expiration of the conch harvesting for the 2016 conch season, which is not permissible under the Act," he said.
But with the passage of the Conch (Export Levy) (Special Provisions) Act, exporters will now be allowed to pay the levy within three months of the date of submission of the application for an export health certificate and export licence for each consignment of conch.
The levy, which was first introduced in 2009, has been reduced from US$0.75 to US$0.50 per pound of conch.
Opposition Spokesperson on Agriculture Derrick Kellier said the fisheries sector is crucial to Jamaica's economic development, but he also raised concerns about poachers in Jamaica's waters.
In response, Samuda said the ministry, along with the Jamaica Defence Force, is introducing drones to police the waters.
"In addition to that, what we will be seeking to do for the next season is to open the season early so that applications can be in, and the boats can go to sea immediately," he said.
Exporters will be required to make all outstanding payments within the three-month period.
The levy is used, in part, to offset the cost of implementing programmes for monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement to safeguard Jamaica's limited conch resources.