Chat with businessman James Lesperance ‘Seychelles fish are in great demand abroad’ By Vidya Gappy | 18 February 2021
During this pandemic, one group of people who have suffered is the fishermen. Many hotels who used to buy fish every single day are closed and suddenly many found themselves in debt. But James Lesperance, who owns a fish processing factory (Amirantes Fisheries) under the JHL Group, has since December last year been purchasing excess high value fish from artisanal and semi-industrial fishermen, transforming the fish and exporting mainly to Mauritius and Dubai.
His endeavour has created an additional market for fishermen on Mahé, Praslin and La Digue who are struggling to sell their catch to the public because of Covid-19 movement restrictions; what they cannot sell on the local market is being purchased by Mr Lesperance.
Mr Lesperance is currently overseas on negotiations to open up more international markets for the export of Seychelles fish. Seychelles NATION caught up with him by phone where he eagerly shared his new endeavours.
Seychelles NATION: Please tell us about your company Amirantes Fisheries? When, why and how did you start this business?
James Lesperance: I was in the fish business for many years and in 1992 I stopped and started with the business of trading ‘Banbara’ (sea cucumber), shark fin and this business is still going on. For the last seven years I started doing business ‘by-catch’ and this has been working really well since last year. Even now it’s not that bad but I can see difficulties with fishermen who do not have fish to provide me.
Seychelles NATION: Now during the pandemic, how are you operating and what has changed?
James Lesperance: With the current pandemic, fishermen are unable to fish and they also have loans to pay. In its report, the Seychelles Fishing Authority stated that many fishermen have loans to pay and money is tied with traditional and long line fishermen. The other thing I noted is that while passing by at Anse Etoile, at 7pm fishermen still find themselves with unsold fish and they explained that there is no sale. I told them that I will help them out.
Since last year, I started buying fish from them and tried different markets in the UAE and Mauritius. Now I am in Mauritius. Last year I exported three containers of fish to Mauritius with Red Snapper, Vielle, fish fillet and it went well. Now I am in Mauritius and I am meeting many interested clients as I started my marketing in Seychelles. I also asked for help from the Seychelles consul in Mauritius. When President Wavel Ramkalawan visited Mauritius, he already spoke to the head of State there, and I seized the opportunity to continue in the same line and explore the Mauritian market and also what Mauritius can offer us.
Seychelles NATION: Now you are travelling to negotiate to open more international markets, please tell us more about your new endeavour?
James Lesperance: I am still in quarantine but once done I will be visiting several factories and see how we can collaborate. Yes there is actually quite a big demand for our fish in Mauritius. The way we are going with these negotiations, I know we have enough trade for Seychellois and I want our people to seize this opportunity to bring in some dollars.
I am already in touch with some local fishermen from Mahé, Praslin and La Digue to see the possibility of buying more fish from them. I am sure that things will be favourable for us. I do not want to put pressure on the local market also and the extra will be used for export.
When I am done in Mauritius, I will fly to Dubai to draw up a contract with Carrefour. There are currently 70 Carrefour in Dubai and I will process the fish in Seychelles and then export to Dubai. I am also planning to have a discussion with Emirates Airlines for future businesses. Price will be fixed every month according to the value of the foreign exchange. For the time being we are working with Sri Lanka and Côte d’Ivoire and we are transferring money in dollars to Seychelles every month.