Guyana’s scrap metal trade has taken a hit despite being reopened in April according to the General Secretary of the Guyana Metal Recyclers Association, Stephen Bourne.
The government in April approved the re-opening of the trade with strict regulations in place following a six-month ban.
In lifting the ban, the Ministry of Commerce had established two units– one internally within the Ministry –and the other, externally. The external unit will comprise officials from the Guyana Police Force, CANU, Guyana Revenue Authority and the Ministry.
Additionally, a document with recommendations and regulations for the trade has also been established. This document, which was approved by the cabinet, also outlines non-negotiable measures for the traders.
Among the new measures is the authorised packing of scrap metal in a specific yard with 24-hour surveillance. This will also be boosted with the presence of CANU officers, who with the aid of body cams, will empty and inspect scrap metal containers before being exported.
The General Secretary explained that with the ban lifted, a new ‘’turn system” was introduced, mandating that exporters operate only twice per month – one that was deemed “impossible” to work with.
And Bourne, who has been a scrap metal exporter for almost a decade, said that even if exporters attempt to work with the system, they still lose as they face challenges in getting the relevant officers to go through the checks and balances in a timely manner.
He explained that before the containers loaded with scrap metal can be shipped off to the buyer, officers from CANU, the Goods Examination Unit (GEU) of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Drug Enforcement Unit (DEU) along with an official from the Scrap Metal Unit (SMU) need to review that container before giving the green light.
“We are not able to load in the same day because we have issues surrounding getting the officers to arrive to our scrap yard on the same day.
“Now, we need to load, seal the containers, scan the containers and have it returned to the wharf and for some scrap metal yards that are not equipped to complete the loading in a day, it is challenging for them,” he pointed out.
Bourne pointed out too that exporters are no longer able to meet the load requirements set by the buyers, leading to a significant loss in revenue.
“This work takes about a day or two to complete and now, you need to try to fit it into one day and not even one day, just into a few hours.
“It is affecting a lot of dealers and if they were [exporting], let’s say, 50 containers a month, now we have reduced to about eight to ten per month.”
Bourne explained further that the export license renewal fee makes things “even more challenging.”
He said that while the export license is granted for a month’s period if it is not utilised within that period, exporters will need to pay 50 per cent of the value of the container.
And that price may increase depending on the grade of the scrap metal it contains.
“The thing is, we as dealers, we understand what the government is trying to do and trying to achieve in terms of what happened with narco trade…we understand the strictness but we also need some assistance,” the General Secretary added.
The association which has 16 members, is urging the relevant authorities to consider the removal of the license renewal fees as a start to ensuring that scrap mental exporters are able to garner more revenue from an already struggling sector.
The ban on the scrap metal trade was implemented in September last year by the government as they embarked on an assessment of the trade.