Kerwin Samuel, a sea moss farmer and manager of Total Health Food Services Ltd, is the victim of his own success.
Samuel, a resident of Pierrot, Vieux-Fort and other sea moss farmers in the community, are grappling with the problem of sea moss thieves who are threatening their livelihood.
It all began about five weeks ago, after Export Saint Lucia interviewed Samuel, whose company exported a shipment of sun-dried sea moss to the UK market, which he said has given local sea moss farmers a renewed sense of hope as they now have a bigger outlet for the sale and distribution of their produce.
Total Health Food Services is the first local company to export sun-dried sea moss to the UK market and was given high praise for such a feat by the Department of Fisheries.
Samuel said his interview with Export Saint Lucia, which is on the government’s website, has done the country a world of good, adding that it has resulted in foreign companies seeking ways on how to do business with Saint Lucians.
Recently, there has been much interest in sea moss farming in Saint Lucia and an increase in sea moss consumption.
The situation as it pertains to the theft of his product is of grave concern to Samuel, who is now appealing to the Minister of Agriculture, Ezechiel Joseph, to intervene into the matter before it spirals out of control and causes serious damage to the growing sea moss industry.
Samuel said sea moss farmers may have to seek an audience with Joseph so as to discuss their plight. He added that the area in Vieux-Fort where they plant sea moss is a protected area which is maintained by the Saint Lucia National Trust (SNT) hence government should intervene into the matter.
“There are young men who wait for when we leave the sea late in the afternoon to go and harvest what we plant. They would cut the rope and take the sea moss from it,” Samuel lamented.
He said they were informed of a number of young men who are not sea moss farmers seen drying sea moss to sell to the local market.
According to Samuel, they are able to identify the sea moss they plant because it is different from those grown on the reef.
He said their problem is compounded because the area where they plant sea moss is rough, which results in it being broken and washed ashore where people steal them.
“The quantities stolen from us are so large that people put them in big bags, while others hire vehicles to take it away,” Samuel said.
He said this is unfair to them because the planting of sea moss is not an easy job. “We are in the water for almost six hours, three to four times a week,” Samuel said.
According to him, if the problem continues, sea moss farmers in his area will not have enough sea moss to supply their markets.
Samuel said one of the ways the problem can be controlled is by government registering all sea moss famers on the island and issuing them with ID cards.