Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. Last Friday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio commissioned the country’s first fish processing plant at the Sierra Fishing Company in the east of the capital Freetown. Speaking at the event, the president said the plant will add value to fish produced in the country.
“We assert in our New Direction manifesto and in the Medium-Term National Development Plan that fisheries as a sub-sector contributes 12 percent of GDP, employs over 500,000 people, and is the staple of economic activity right along the coastline and in the interior of Sierra Leone.
“In line with our bid to achieve food security, fish remains the primary source of protein for most Sierra Leoneans. Besides, we have emphasised, as a Government, that there is great potential to increase earnings from the sector,” he said.
The President said he has been informed that the facility would sort, blast freeze, and package fish for the local market and for exporting, adding that he is also assured that all environmental, health and safety assessments have been conducted and certified.
“I am also informed that there will be a rigorous monitoring regime in place for the type of fish, and the quality and safety of the packaged fish for market. But to my mind, we can also go beyond just scooping fish from the ocean, carrying and sorting, and freezing and packaging just whole fish. There is a possibility of a whole value-addition economy that will add more value to our fish products and create even more jobs. This will also reduce fish waste and catch losses,” he concluded.
Managing Director of the Sierra Fishing Company, Bassim Mohamed, thanked the President for providing leadership. He said that the project started in 2009 but couldn’t be completed because of what he described as bad leadership.
Bassim further stated that the $15 million project is funded by the European Union, saying the resumption and completion of the project would create 1,000 jobs for skilled and unskilled citizens of the country, thereby reducing poverty and unemployment in the country.
“I want to thank President Julius Maada Bio for his continued engagement with the European Union and other international partners for the resumption and completion of this project,” he noted.
Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Honourable Emma Kowa-Jalloh, said it is a pleasure to witness the commissioning of the plant, which she hoped would lead to wealth creation and economic diversification.
“The industry and artisanal fishermen unions will now have an opportunity to work together for the mutual benefit of the two associations and for better prices for their products,” she said, adding that finally Sierra Leone would be among countries listed for export to the international markets and consumers would be assured of the safety of the products.